|Source www.insidethegames.com |
MARCH 24 - NORTHERN IRELAND has missed out on the opportunity to stage matches in the Olympic football tournament in 2012 because of continuing delays over building a new stadium, insidethegames can reveal.
A row has broken out over the future of a £240 million National Sports Stadium on the site of the former Maze Prison in Lisburn after claims that a decision to scrap the proposal has already been made.
Northern Ireland political parties UUP, Sinn Fein, Alliance and SDLP have called on DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who is now a Junior Minister, to give his unqualified support to the scheme after claims his party wanted to ditch the Maze in favour of a football and rugby stadium in East Belfast.
But officials have admitted privately to insidethegames that even if the row was resolved in the next few weeks it is "extremely unlikely" that the stadium could be built in time.
Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, has said on several occasions that if the stadium had been built then Belfast would have staged at least one match in the Olympic football tournament.
Hampden Park in Glasgow and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff are already due to host matches as part of Coe's plan for the whole of the UK to benefit from London staging the Olympics.
Reports in Northern Ireland have suggested alternatives to the Maze could include either the re-development of Windsor Park or a new stadium at the Blanchflower Stadium in East Belfast.
More than three years ago two new alternatives to the Maze Stadium were dismissed by then Sports Minister David Hanson, who insisted that the original proposal was the only choice.
The indecision over whether to locate a national stadium on the site of the former prison outside Lisburn has also killed off any chance of the island of Ireland co-hosting the under-21 European football championship in 2011, Irish Football Association chief executive Howard Wells said.