Sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, has attended the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games along with sports ministers from across the globe.
Speaking at the spectacular opening to the Games of the 30th Olympiad at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in East London, the Minister said: “It is hard to believe after so much work on the part of the organisers and of the athletes who will now compete over the next couple of weeks, that the Olympic Games are finally here.
“There is no doubt that being part of the greatest sporting event on earth is a once in a life-time opportunity for many of us to witness and participate in especially when it is all happening so close to home.
“Tonight at the opening ceremony, nine of our local schools who have been involved in the London 2012 Education Programme ‘Get Set’ are forming a guard of honour for competing athletes as they leave the Olympic Village on their way to the Stadium. And two local choirs - Phil Kids and Jam - are part of the ‘Isles of Wonder’ film along with choirs from England, Scotland and Wales.
“The opening ceremony was also shown live on the Big Screens at Belfast City Hall and in Derry and during the Games all the action will be at available to view here as well.”
Praising the athletes from the north of Ireland who are part of Team Ireland and Team GB, the Minister said: “We have 20 local sportsmen and women competing for either the Ireland team or British team over the next 16 days. Each of these athletes has given their all to get to this level and we will be cheering them on as they take on the world’s best in table tennis, judo, hockey, rowing, cycling, canoeing, sailing, triathlon, swimming, boxing and eventing. I wish all the very best of luck to all of the athletes from the island of Ireland in their individual events.”
Recognising the wide-range of Irish involvement in preparation for the Games, including the all-Ireland Olympic Torch Relay, the Minister said: “An event of this size and scale could not happen without volunteers. It comes off the back of a hugely successful and inclusive all-Ireland Torch Relay. Almost 500 local games makers are playing their part in ensuring a smooth running and successful Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is a fantastic opportunity for all of them and their experience in London will be invaluable for next year’s City of Culture and the World Police and Fire Games.
“I hope everyone enjoys the opening ceremony and the feast of sport to come over the next couple of weeks.”
Nine local schools formed a Guard of Honour for teams of athletes en route to Olympic Park for the Opening Ceremony. They were:
- Sri Lanka - St Patrick’s and St Brigid’s Primary School, Ballycastle;
- Suriname - St Catherine’s College, Armagh;
- Swaziland - Ballee Community High School, Ballymena;
- Sweden - Christ the Redeemer Primary School, Belfast;
- Philippines - Dundonald Primary School;
- Jordan - Belfast Boy’s Middle School;
- Jordan - Oakgrove Integrated College, Derry;
- Kuwait/Saudi Arabia - Park Hall integrated College, Antrim; and
- Philippines - Orangefield High School, Belfast.