A hero’s welcome greeted Ireland’s 66 Olympians on the runway at Dublin Airport — but the homecoming seemed slightly muted compared to what’s in store outside the Mansion House in Dublin tomorrow afternoon.
An emotional Sonia O’Sullivan, Team Ireland chef de mission, said she was proud of the team and the Olympic spirit they displayed.
“It’s very easy for us to focus on our medal winners but I believe that their cause is helped along on by a positive team spirit,” she said.
The return had been overshadowed by reports of a split over whether or not athletes should attend a public homecoming yesterday.
Katie Taylor’s coach and father Peter was angered over suggestions he had turned down the offer of a celebration on the streets of Dublin. He had not been consulted.
Pat Hickey, Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) president, insisted there was no rift between the sports body and the Taylor camp over the claim.
“There is no rift whatsoever between Pete Taylor and the Olympic Council of Ireland or the athletes,” he told RTÉ Radio.
“I personally have a great relationship with Peter Taylor. He was misquoted in several papers about many things. Of course the man was very angry.”
Initial plans for a homecoming had been suggested as early as Aug 2 but the OCI and Dublin City Council failed to get support from the majority of the athletes. Many, who have been away from home for weeks and months, said they preferred to get to their home towns first to see loved ones.
Michael Ring, junior minister for sport, attended the airport welcome and vowed to continue to fight for funding for sports to bring a stronger team to the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. “You lifted the souls and minds and the hearts of the people of Ireland,” he told the athletes.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrived in the airport separately ahead of the team and backed the idea of striving for better results. “The athletes have done their country proud. I admire every one of them.
“Well done and thank you on behalf of our country.”
The public reception for the team takes place outside the Mansion House in Dublin tomorrow at lunchtime.
The Government is planning a special reception for the athletes at Farmleigh on Friday.
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