Mayor orders review of city’s sporting facilities

The Lord Mayor of Cork has announced a major review of the city’s sporting facilities to see what can be done to help the next generation of Irish Olympic athletes.

And Olympic walker, Rob Heffernan, who finished fourth in the 50km, said there is no reason why Cork could not become a national centre of excellence for certain Olympic sports.

“Ideally, we’d love to have an indoor track or stadium,” Rob said.

“We have good facilities here, with the Mardyke and CIT, and coaches doing great things but we need to be able to develop athletes year-round.”

He was speaking as Lord Mayor John Buttimer hosted a mayoral reception in City Hall to honour Cork’s London 2012 Olympians.

He said support for emerging athletes with Olympic potential must start at a local level.

“As a nation we are happy to share in the joys and tribulation of their success but we must not back away from the responsibility of sharing in the sweat and toil of the endeavour,” he said.

“As a society we must decide that there is a value in funding elite athletes.

“If we want to seriously compete for medals, the Government has to commit to funding athletes from an early age, developing regional and national infrastructure as well as supporting sporting bodies develop centres of excellence.”

Limited facilities in Ireland have forced our top athletes abroad to achieve their true potential.

“I will be asking the city manager and the director of recreation, amenity and emergency services here in City Hall to undertake a review of facilities to see if we can do more to help meet the needs of emerging athletes who have achieved or considered to have the potential to achieve Olympic qualifying standards,” Mr Buttimer said.

Among the athletes at the reception were Rob and Marian Heffernan, sprinter Derval O’Rourke, sailor Peter O’Leary, and showjumping team manager Robert Splaine.

Rob finished fourth in the 50km walk, taking an impressive seven-and-a-half minutes off the Irish record, and 9th in the 20km.

Marian ran in the women’s four by 400 metres relay team which set a seasonal best of 3.30.55 to finish sixth in the qualifiers.

Olive Loughnane finished 13th in the women’s 20km walk, Derval O’Rourke finished fifth in the semi-final of women’s 100m hurdles, and women’s single sculls rower, Sanita Puspure, won the C final, coming 13th overall.

Team Ireland’s chef de mission Sonia O’Sullivan was unable to attend.

Mr Heffernan said he hoped all their efforts will inspire young people to get involved in sport.

Sailor silent on row

* Olympic sailor Peter O’Leary has remained tight lipped on the betting allegations which blighted his London Games. A source close to Mr O’Leary said he wanted to enjoy the reception without being bothered by the media about the controversy.

Mr O’Leary was at the centre of a media storm on Olympics opening day when it was alleged he bet on an opponent at the Beijing Games four years ago.

The Olympic Council of Ireland said the sailor at the centre of the controversy did not break any rules at the time.

Mr O’Leary, a native of Crosshaven, comes from a Cork sailing dynasty and sails with the Baltimore Sailing Club in West Cork.

He recently won gold with his teammate David Burrows at the Sail for Gold regatta in Weymouth. The duo were considered medal contenders coming in to the Olympics but performed below par.

Experts said the gambling controversy affected Mr O’Leary’s performance.

The duo finished 10th in the medal race and 10th overall in the star class — Ireland’s best ever finish in that division.

The source close to Mr O’Leary said last night that he wanted to focus on the fact they finished in the top 10 in the world, and not on the betting allegations.

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