Northern Ireland could play host to the Palestinian Olympic team in their preparations for the 2012 Games in London.
A delegation from the Palestinian Olympic Committee today [Wednesday] took in a visit to the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campuses multi-million pound sports facilities and said that they are keen to work with the University on future training programmes.
The visitors included Jibril Rajoub, Chairman of the Palestinian Olympic Committee and President of Palestine Football Association, as well as Jonathan McIvor, Project Director, Middle East project manager at NICO.
The trip to Northern Ireland, which was facilitated by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, was a chance for the Middle Eastern representatives to assess the possibilities of using the region’s sporting services as a pre-Olympics training camp.
Dr Saeb Shaath, a member of the delegation, said the £20million sports centre at Jordanstown would be ideal for their plans ahead of the 2012 London Games.
“The facilities here at the University are superior to lots of facilities that we have seen in Europe,” Dr Shaath said.
“The technical expertise of the trainers and instructors, as well as the facilities is fantastic. In the future we hope that we can bring our national teams here for training before the Olympics.”
Dr Shaath went on to say that his country is targeting soccer as a focal point for picking up a medal. He said that their spotlight would be on women’s soccer, with men’s soccer a secondary priority.
He said: “We would like to develop and collaborate with the University to possibly train here in the future, because seeing all this inspires us to match the expertise that we see here, and we can use this knowledge and aspire to develop our own training facilities in Palestine along a similar model.”
The University of Ulster’s £20million sports facilities at the Jordanstown campus has already been designated a pre-Olympic and Paralympic Games training venue by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
Trish McFarland of the Ulster Sports Academy, said: “We were delighted to welcome the delegation from Palestine to the Jordanstown campus and hope that we can develop sporting links with them in the future. Northern Ireland should welcome with open arms the possibilities ahead of the 2012 Olympics and we can learn so much from visits such as this from the Palestinian Olympic Committee.”
The state-of-the-art sports complex holds an Third Generation (3G) indoor training area; strength and conditioning suite; 60 metre indoor sprint track; 120 metre outdoor sprint track; fitness suite; and an athlete recovery area with hot and cold plunge pools, sauna and steam room.