What should have been a triumphant homecoming for Ireland’s Olympic heroes descended into an unseemly debacle this week as conflicting reports emerged in relation to why an event was not staged to welcome their return on Tuesday last.
Originally it was reported that the athletes themselves declined to participate in an open-top bus parade, explaining that they wished to return to their families as soon as possible following weeks at the Olympic Games.
Subsequently, comments attributed to an Olympic Council of Ireland spokesman suggested that the Dublin homecoming had not taken place as a result of objections from the father of Gold Olympic medal winner, Katie Taylor, but he has since vehemently denied that this was the case.
Indeed, Mr. Peter Taylor, Katie’s father and trainer, has stated that the claim had taken the “gloss” off everything his daughter had achieved, a very regrettable situation for the Taylor family.
Talks between the OCI, Dublin City Council and the athletes began on Monday, and continued late into the night, in a bid to salvage something from this truly bizarre situation. Ultimately it was agreed that a public event would take place today outside the Mansion House in Dublin.
The entire affair is unfathomable. The 2012 Olympics were the most successful for Irish athletes for over fifty years and that it descended into a debate, indeed scrap, in relation to when and how our sporting heroes would be feted is ridiculous. It certainly sends all the wrong signals to the other nations who had participated in the event and who must be looking at Ireland with bewilderment. The simple task of honouring some of the greatest athletes we have had since 1956 should have been a very straight-forward affair. There was certainly no reason that it should have descended to such rancour and bitterness.
There have been plenty of occasions in the past when returning sportsmen and women have been honoured following their arrival at Dublin Airport and the protocols and procedures used on those occasions could have been implemented in this case also.
After providing such proud moments in their various disciplines during the London Olympics, the participants should not have been subjected to this petty squabbling. Mr. Taylor is correct in stating that it has taken from his daughter’s magnificent achievement but let us hope that today’s honouring of the champions will enable the ordinary people of the country to demonstrate their gratitude to and pride of such extraordinary individuals.
In time the controversy surrounding this debacle will abate and it will be forgotton. What will not be etched from the minds of the people of the country is the extraordinary achievements of our athletes in the Olympic Games of 2012 - and that is as it should be.
Whilst we in Ireland though were, to a degree, a laughing stock of nations everywhere, the organisers of the spectacle that was the London Olympics were basking in glory.
The staging of the 2012 games was staggering in its splendour and all associated with its staging can feel very well deserved pride in providing one of the most amazing games in the history of the Olympics. They can now take a well earned rest - and an even greater well deserved bow.