THE Olympic Rings now have a very visible and permanent presence on the Sport Ireland campus after the official opening of the Olympic Federation of Ireland’s new HQ at Abbottstown.
The iconic symbol adorns the exterior of the beautifully restored ‘Long Barn’ directly opposite the Institute of Sport.
Downstairs houses the new OFI offices while the top floor is dedicated solely as a rest and recovery space for Team Ireland’s athletes.
Speaking at the opening ceremony on May 25 Olympic Federation of Ireland President Sarah Keane said the move marked the growth within the OFI and its close working relationship with Sport Ireland.
She said the decision to sell the previous Olympic Council headquarters in Howth was a big one but taken strategically in order to move the OFI to the “hub of Irish sport.
“Coming on campus brings us closer to our national federations, closer to Sport Ireland and our partners at the Institute’ and ultimately much closer to the athletes, giving them an opportunity to meet us in an informal setting.
“A big part of this move also was to bring the Olympic Rings to the campus, that itself is historic,” she stressed.
“Our athletes need inspiration because the road they take is a tough one and they work so hard but that is how we create a better nation, by helping people to build their resilience.
“This is also a campus that has been built for the local community so we hope local people who visit and use it will also see the Olympic rings and be inspired by them,” she added, thanking all those who were instrumental in the move.
Minister for Sport and Physical Education Thomas Byrne, members of Sport Ireland, the Institute for Sport and all of Ireland’s Olympic sports attended the opening and got a tour of the impressive listed building which follows the sustainable ethos of re-purposing all the existing structures on the campus.
CEO of Sport Ireland Una May said: “The athletes’ lounge is particularly important because we’ve always said we want to put athletes first. In future we will have an Athletes’ Village here and this is the start of that. This is their space.”
John Foley, the new Chairperson of Sport Ireland, said the Olympic Federation’s move to the campus was “a very significant and positive day. The fact that we’re going to be near neighbours is a hugely positive move for all of us.
“The athletes will now have the benefit of having Sport Ireland, the Sport Ireland Institute and the OFI all in the one place and this copper fastens our already excellent and positive relationship,” he said.
Peter Sherrard, CEO of OFI, said the move was particularly timely as their new offices have room for an expanding staff at a very pivotal moment.
“Our team has grown very quickly and it needed to before the upcoming European Games (June 21-July 2), the EYOF (European Youth Olympics, July 23-29) and the World Beach Games (5 – 12 August).
“We will obviously reach maturity at some point but I’d be of the view that the more staff the better at the moment, whether on the performance or commercial side, because that enables us to generate revenue which ultimately provides the very best support for our athletes.
“This move is also very important because it allows us to put a lot of plans in place for next year and not just for Paris.”
He pointed out that 2024 is also the OFI’s centenary year and they have multiple plans to mark that, including uniting all of Ireland’s Olympians, from all eras, for a special commemorative event and creating events to mark the anniversary all around the country.
“Part of our remit is to inspire the next generation so it’s great to have an opportunity to do all of this in the coming year and having a new home will help us drive that forward,” he said.
“Sorting systems that win medals and succeed at all levels, including grass roots, are those whose constituent parts work well together, where everyone is really clear on what their goals and roles are. In Irish Olympic sport we are increasingly seeing that and this is a great symbol of that collaboration.”
The reaction of Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Aidan Walsh best captured the athletes’ reactions, saying: “Every day now, when I’m coming into training, I‘ll look across from the Institute and see the Olympic Rings. That has to do something powerful to you, to inspire you to be an Olympian.
“It’s amazing to see the importance they’ve put on the athletes with this new lounge for us. At the end of the day it’s a hard career. We’re training twice or three times a-day so to be able to come across the road here and relax in such a lovely space is incredible.”