O'Sullivan: Medal winners' homecoming should not have been assumed
14:33, 12 Aug 2012
Team Ireland's chef de mission Sonia O'Sullivan was not consulted when initial plans were being made for a medal winners' homecoming, it has emerged.
Amid suggestions that the failure to agree a public celebration in the capital had soured success, the former Olympian said many athletes preferred to get to their home towns.
O'Sullivan also criticised the idea of a major public celebration on the day athletes return home.
"You can't make decisions without asking people," she said.
"It's only a fiasco because people are trying to organise something on a day that was not appropriate."
Peter Taylor, father and coach of gold medal boxer Katie Taylor, wrote in a weekend newspaper column that a Dublin homecoming would not happen without his sanction.
"It's one of those things. I think everybody needs to want to do it. If the performers do not want to go on the stage, that's up to them," O'Sullivan said.
"The general consensus was that most athletes want to get home."
The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) said Mr Taylor was focused on what was happening in his home town of Bray and not Dublin.
But O'Sullivan refused to criticise the OCI's role amid suggestions of a lack of communication with competitors, even though plans were being developed as early as August 2.
Separate events will now take place in Bray for Taylor, Mullingar for silver medal-winning boxer John Joe Nevin and in Belfast for bronze medal-winning boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan.
A welcome and press conference is planned for lunchtime at Dublin Airport. The public are being encouraged not to attend as the venue cannot accommodate huge numbers of fans for safety reasons.
O'Sullivan said that plan had been in place from well before the London Games, Ireland's most successful since 1956.
In an interview with RTÉ Radio, she also stressed the length of time athletes have been away from home and how keen they are to see family and friends first.
The only other athlete with a medal, bronze-winning showjumper Cian O'Connor, returned home last week. He has been asked to come to the airport tomorrow.
O'Sullivan said she understands the huge disappointment among the public, but added: "Nobody spoke to me about it.
"I think it should have been planned properly and not just assumed."
Dublin City Council had been in discussions with the OCI and a decision was taken on Friday evening that a public homecoming celebration in Merrion Square was off.
Michael Ring, Junior Minister for Sport, said he was also disappointed.
"I don't want to now see a row spoiling the great event that has taken place," he said.
"But we have to respect the wishes of the athletes that they do not want a homecoming."
Mr Ring accepted that the athletes should have been consulted first.
He also insisted money was not an issue. He said the city council had been prepared to part-fund the event and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport had also agreed on Friday to cover some costs.
Officials in Bray expect thousands of people to welcome home Taylor and teammate and local garda Adam Nolan.
The town council will kick off celebrations at 3pm before an open-top bus tour at 5pm followed by music and fireworks.
In Mullingar, the council has organised an open-top bus tour from the area Nevin was born at 6.30pm tomorrow to a reception in the Westmeath GAA grounds of Cusack Park.
The event will also see equestrian Olympian Joseph Murphy and Paralympians Damien Shaw and Mark Rohan celebrated.
In Belfast, an event has been organised at the Titanic centre for Conlan and Barnes - the first Irish boxer to secure two of the medals at consecutive Games.