Making the Award presentation, Pat Hickey said, “As you all know, John was probably the best Minister of Sport we have ever had in this country – a man who is passionate about all kinds of sport – from the GAA to the Olympics. John is a true Irishman whose passion and commitment for sport at all levels has helped to take Irish sport in to many new dimensions, especially through his increased budget contributions to Olympic sport over the years.
But above all that, John O’Donoghue was the man who singularly helped us in the OCI to set up base at our magnificent Olympic House in Howth – this move has allowed us to show the Olympic movement in its proper light – and to service you, the NFs, with greater efficiency and in a better fashion.
For the foregoing there is no doubt that Ceann Chomhairle O’Donoghue is a very worthy recipient of the International Olympic Committees Sport & Olympism Award”.
In reply, Mr. O’Donoghue said “I am very pleased and greatly honoured to receive this very important award. I would like to thank Pat Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland and the International Olympic Committee for selecting me as the recipient of this prestigious award. So tonight it is a lovely surprise for me to be here receiving this sporting award that I will truly cherish.
I would like to pay tribute to Pat and his colleagues in the Olympic Council of Ireland for the contribution which they continue to make towards the preparation of our team for the Olympic Games. Ireland has a proud tradition in Olympic sport. It is interesting to note that a substantial number of Irish born athletes, whether representing Ireland or other countries, have won Olympic medals since the inception of the modern Olympic games in 1896.
As a nation, we have sent a team to compete at every summer Games since Ireland was recognised by the I O C in 1924 and we have enjoyed some wonderful successes. This continued in Beijing this year where the Irish Olympic team enjoyed very successful games with our three boxers joining the select group of people who have won Olympic medals for Ireland. And there were some great performances in other sports as well.
And that’s what I like about the Olympic Movement – a movement that I saw close up as Minister for Sport when I attended the Athens Olympics in 2000. It’s an amazing event and is the most visible expression of what elite sport is all about – in fact, a model for promoting sporting excellence in harmony with international respect and friendship. There I witnessed at first hand the esteem and respect which Pat Hickey commands within the Olympic movement and I know from discussions with Mr Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee that Pat exerts great influence within the Olympic movement”.
Among the many special guests at the dinner were Lord Sebastian Coe, double gold medal winner and Chairman of the London Olympic Games Organising Committee 2012 and Ireland’s gold medal winners Ronnie Delany and Michael Carruth.
Beijing Olympic medallists Kenny Egan and Paddy Barnes were presented with special Olympic Pins on the night by Ireland’s Beijing Chef de Mission Dermot Henihan to commemmorate their terrific achievements. Darren Sutherland was unable to attend and his Olympic Pin was accepted by the chairman of his local boxing club.
In a superb keynote address, Lord Coe said that the London Games represented a once in a lifetime opportunity for both Great Britain and Ireland to show the people of both nations what sport can deliver in terms of regeneration and in developing a greater interest in participating in sport by young people. “We, as the closest of neighbours, are virtually joined at the hip in this massive project and I look forward to working closely with the Olympic Council of Ireland to maximise the benefits of what will be an amazing event to our mutual satisfaction”