Northern Ireland is a central part of the UK’s Olympic efforts despite itsabsence from the Team GB title, British prime minister David Cameron has explained.
Mr Cameron visited the home club in Coleraine, Co Derry, of one of the UK’s top rowers as Alan Campbell reached the final in his bid for Olympics glory.
He spoke to officials and athletes at the Bann Rowing Club and met one of the young prospects who lit the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony.
The club also boasts Coleraine-born brothers Peter and Richard Chambers, who helped power the lightweight men’s four rowers into today’s final and a shot at gold.
“Team GB is a team for the whole of the United Kingdom,” said Mr Cameron. “There are some fantastic athletes from Northern Ireland taking part.”
He visited Coleraine, before going on to also see the Giant’s Causeway attraction, and said he was keen to emphasise the North’s role in the Games.
“Not only are there great Northern Ireland athletes taking part in the Olympics, but also every part of our United Kingdom is benefiting from the Olympics.”
He said the choice of the title Team GB, as opposed to Team UK which wouldinclude the North, was an issue for the British Olympic Association.
“But let’s be in no doubt,” he said, “the team is a United Kingdom team. It includes athletes, Olympians and Paralympians from across our United Kingdom, Northern Ireland included.”
He also praised torch bearers who carried the Olympic flame through the North.
Mr Cameron said: “Our country is a small country that does big things.
“The UK is a country that can deliver, that can get things done, that can put on an incredible show, that can make people feel proud to be British and above all can provide an inspiration for future generations.”
World bronze medallist rower Campbell finished second in his men’s singlesculls semi-final behind Czech Republic’s Ondrej Synek at Eton and qualified for the final.
Campbell has been at the Bann rowing club since he was 16. Club vice-captain Stephen Smyth said: “He has sheer determination and Ulster grit.”
Mr Cameron met Katie Kirk, 18, a 400m athlete who is a future Olympic hopeful and was nominated to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony
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