02/03/2006

Government to spend £50m on NI sports

The government are to spend £50 million on elite facilities for Northern Ireland Olympic sports before 2010.

Sports Minister David Hanson today revealed that £50 million has been provisionally allocated for "high priority sports infrastructure projects" identified by the Northern Ireland Sports Council.

The money will be allocated through a series of bid competitions, which will be handled by the Strategic Investment Board Ltd (SIB) and the Sports Council.

The first of these will be advertised tomorrow and will look for expressions of interest from project promoters for an Olympic sized swimming pool and the winning project could attract up to 75% of the capital costs.

The Sports Minister made the announcement today during the visit of Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) Lord Coe, who is here to mark the start of Northern Ireland's involvement in supporting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games.

The Minister said: "Today Northern Ireland joins London and the regions at the beginning of the most exciting phase of the history of sport in the UK. The 2012 Games will act as a catalyst for the development of sport in every region. In the run up to the Games, Government is committed to raising the level of sport, to getting the right facilities in place well before the start of the Games and to getting young people involved in sport from an early age.

"To help us achieve our goal, I have asked a number of people drawn from sport, business, local government, tourism and the cultural sectors to join the new Olympics Northern Ireland Task Force. They will use their expertise to implement a strategy, which I am launching today to enable Northern Ireland to compete for preparation camps and holding camps. We will also aim to attract appropriate sporting events in the run up to 2012. In addition, providing that we can deliver the multi-sports stadium, we are looking to host a number of the soccer games as part of the London 2012 Olympic soccer tournament".

Mr Hanson continued that the government's investment in top class facilities and the 2012 Games will provide the means to ensure that Northern Ireland sports men and women have the best opportunity to compete on the world stage.

He said: "I am determined that Northern Ireland will have the facilities it needs to develop sport and sportspeople so that it can compete with the best in the world. It is vital that we have the right physical infrastructure, but we must also focus on the need to develop our sports people and potential sportspeople.

"I am convinced that the commitment and the talent are there - we have evidence of that with the many sports people from Northern Ireland who regularly compete at international level. Sport has the ability to enhance the lives of those who participate as well as those who are supporters. I hope that, over the coming years, sport will be recognised for the important role it has in the life of the people of Northern Ireland. Today is a start. There is much more to do."

Today's event was attended by members of the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games Team who are just about to leave for Australia.

(EF/SP)

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