Preparations for the London 2012 Olympic Games are well under way, as Irish athletes continue seek to attain qualifying standards. In recent months the O.C.I team themselves (including some athletes) have visited the various Games sites in London and elsewhere led by O.C.I’s C.E.O Stephen Martin and Chef de Mission Sonia O’Sullivan.
The OCI last weekend held an athlete conference at Tollymore Mountain and Conference Centre near Newcastle in the Mourne Mountains in preparation for London 2012
Some 30 athletes attended Tollymore, from nine Olympic Sports among them Athletes – Paul Hession, Deirdre Ryan,Linda Byrne and Brendan Boyce;, Boxers Darren O’Neill and Michael Conlan, Cycling’s Sam Bennett, Modern Pentathlon’s Natalya Coyle, Clay Pigeon shooter Derek Burnett, Equestrian riders Liz Power, Joseph Murphy, Camilla Spiers, Men’s Hockey captain Ronan Gormley and Swimmer Sycerika McMahon.
Sonia O’Sullivan, Ger Hartmann, Phil Moore, Rod McLoughlin, Martin Burke and Stephen Martin conducted a range of sessions on all aspects of operational planning for London as discussed with Performance Directors. They covered training camps, Olympic village environment, medical issues, accreditations, performance, villages , ceremony, ASICS clothing updates, media management and defined what a multi sport team performance culture should look like.
Athletes were given the opportunity to input and feedback into the programme. They enjoyed the multi sports experience and the chance to develop a better team spirit in the build-up to London 2012. Other key areas of athlete involvement related to addressing certain “pressure points” that may have a negative impact on performance. Athletes were given a clear picture of how the OCI and Institutes of Sport (IIS/SINI) engage with their PD’s performance programmes in order to add value to their programme in the build up to, during and post-Olympic Games.
This will be the best prepared Irish team at the Olympics. Extensive use is being made of the highly impressive St Mary’s University facilities at Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, which boasts an elite endurance training centre and sports science department amongst the best in Britain. Here too the Chinese, Japanese and some of the South African squad will be based for pre-Olympic training.
Ireland will also use the Lensbury Conference Centre, Hotel and Spa nearby. The Lensbury., was first formed in 1920 as the sports and social club for the staff of The Royal Dutch Shell Group and is an ideal location to prepare for the Games. A few of the Irish sports stars will not be based there though including the boxers, equestrian, sailing and judo.
Many Irish supporters believe that London is virtually a ‘home games’ and in many respects it is but as someone who has lived for many years in and around Teddington as well as in Ireland and in Australia Sonia O’Sullivan , has a different view of things.
“I am familiar with it here and it is a simple and easy environment to work in. But there are things athletes need to know,” she says. “It’s humid here and the air is not very good. You need to get used to it. I know from being here in summer and then travelling home that it’s much fresher in Ireland. The air is heavier here and something the athletes do need to get used to.”
A huge amount of effort has been made to ensure that everything is in place to allow the Irish teams have the best possible preparation for London 2012 – much more will be done in the months ahead.