… increased today as leading academic and commentator Professor Billy McWilliams called for an Olympic event to be held at Portglenone. Professor McWilliams, widely regarded as a leadership figure within the Ulster Scots cultural movement, said that the synchronised swimming could be held in the Lower Bann (where navigation is managed by Waterways Ireland, a North-South Body). Professor McWilliams said:
Now it will nat hiv passed yer notice thit the Inglish hiv the Olympics nixt year, fur they hivnae stapped bangin’ oan aboot it in their papers an’ oan the Television. Ah hiv noted thit events an’ the like arenae entirely based in London, wi’ sailin’ at Cows, Fitba in Cardiff an’ Glasgow fur example. Howiver try as Ah might Ah cannae fine a single event in oor ain wee country. Ye wud think that they might at laist hiv threw us the shootin’ at things oor the hittin’ eacho’er, buy it wud appear we dinnae even warrent thon.
He pointed to the excellent facilities available:
An area of the Bann will be roped off for the competition preventing intrusion by anglers and/or perverts. Folk will be able to watch it from the marina, or up on the bridge, or the car park beside the Wild Duck.
There are two changing rooms in the community centre, wan for men and wan for women, and the hall could be turned into a media centre (no wi-fi, but folk could bring their dongle yokes). There is also a small, but clean, kitchen which provides tea making facilities. We have a right mobile phone signal, several well stocked shops and a rake of B&Bs.
Given that WI’s budgetary allocation from the Free State has been cut, and that the ratio between contributions from the two jurisdictions is fixed, the extra cost of staging an Olympic event might cause difficulty for Waterways Ireland. However, Professor McWilliams is known to be a doughty campaigner ….