Homecoming row �ruining Games�

The father of golden girl Katie Taylor has said the unseemly dispute surrounding the homecoming of the record-equalling Irish team has spoiled his Olympics.

Peter Taylor was left fuming by erroneous reports that he intervened to prevent Ireland�s boxing heroes committing to a homecoming through the streets of Dublin today.

In a statement issued at 10.15 last night, following a day of uncertainty, the OCI said a formal homecoming event would be held at the Mansion House in Dublin on Wednesday at lunchtime.

�Members of the public are requested not to come to Dublin Airport ... but to wait until the Wednesday event in Dawson St� after the athletes had time to rest and see their families.

Earlier, boxing coach Billy Walsh confirmed that Katie Taylor�s father was not even in the room when the boxers took a vote on the matter.

�That piece in the paper that Pete had stopped the parade or celebrations when we came back is totally wrong,� he said.

�There�s no such thing. He [Pete] wasn�t even in the room when the decision was made by the athletes that they didn�t want it.

�For some reason, somebody is bandying his name around and he is absolutely livid and it�s ruining his Olympic Games for him.

�Pete is being blamed and he is livid, absolutely livid. He is distraught at the moment.�

A friend of the Taylor family contacted RT� Radio yesterday to correct the record and say the Taylors believed it �was only right and fitting� that all the Olympians were celebrated. �They�re all heroes. They�re all Olympians. There is no way that Pete would say no� but the only one [homecoming] we knew about is the one in Bray,� the friend said.

Billy Walsh added: �We are shattered physically and mentally, we want to get back to our loved ones, have a little celebration at home and if the nation wants us to have a celebration [after that], we�ll have that.�

It has emerged the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) never consulted the athletes about a planned civic ceremony despite holding discussions with Dublin City Council after Ireland�s record-equalling five-medal haul.

The row was described as a �fiasco� by the Olympic team�s chef de mission, Sonia O�Sullivan. She confirmed the athletes were unaware of the tentative plans by the OCI and the council. She said she heard during the week that �there was planning going on�.

She then contacted the OCI and made them aware that �the general consensus was that most athletes just want to get home to friends and family� and that, in her opinion, a state ceremony, �if done properly� should not be �tagged on to the airport�.

She also criticised the idea of a major public celebration on the day athletes returned home.

�You can�t make decisions without asking people. It�s only a fiasco because people are trying to organise something on a day that was not appropriate.�

OCI president Pat Hickey was unavailable because of �an urgent meeting� yesterday, but Michael Ring, junior sports minister, told RT� Radio that the �athletes should have been contacted first�.

�People would have loved to have seen the homecoming� They have brought great excitement and joy over the past two weeks� But we don�t now want to see a row spoiling a great event.�

Mr Ring insisted money was not an issue. He said the council had been prepared to part-fund the event and the Department of Sport agreed on Friday to cover some costs.

�I don�t want to now see a row spoiling the great event that has taken place.�

Dublin Airport had been touted as a place where the public could cheer the 66-strong Irish team. However, it is believed airport authority officials had questioned whether the facility could cope with crowds of up to 50,000.

Separate events will now take place in Bray for Taylor, Mullingar for silver medal-winning boxer John Joe Nevin, and in Belfast for bronze medal-winning boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan.

A massive event is being planned for Katie in Bray tonight, where she will travel in an open-top bus.

Meanwhile, officials in Nevin�s home town of Mullingar have said there will be a red carpet welcome for the silver medallist.

In Belfast, an event has been organised at the Titanic centre for Conlan and Barnes, who is the first Irish boxer to secure a medal at two consecutive games.


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