With the 2012 Olympics now but 131 days away, and as London Town’ prepares to host the greatest show on earth this summer, Irish Olympians and Paralympians will attend today’s London’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Organised by the Mayor of London with support from presenting partner 02, the free event will be a colourful and lively showcase of Irish musical and dance talent, with a line-up that includes award-winning musician Gemma Hayes, the platinum selling High Kings and dance fusion from Hammerstep.
Large crowds are expected to line the streets for the parade as floats and costumed walkers make their way from the top of Piccadilly towards Trafalgar Square, where festival goers will be treated to live music and dance, as well as Irish crafts, food and drink.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘I’m delighted to once again be backing London’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations. That they are amongst the biggest outside Ireland reflects the longstanding contribution of many generations of Irish people to London life. Not only have they enriched our culture with the craic, they have brought their intellect and imagination to our professions and created wealth and employment – vital assets for our city’s prosperity.
‘In the year that we host the 2012 Games our celebrations for St Patrick will be even more special thanks to the presence of great Irish Olympians and Paralympians. Looking ahead to a thrilling summer of sport, as our friends and neighbours, they can expect a warm welcome and like athletes from around the world the enthusiastic support from home fans living here in the capital. Lá Fhéile Phádraig Shona Duit!’
Joining this year’s celebrations will be Ireland Olympic Chef de Mission and Olympic silver medallist Sonia O’Sullivan, along with gymnast Kieran Behan and high-jumper Deirdre Ryan both of whom have qualified to represent Ireland at the London 2012 Games plus Beijing Olympic Silver medallist, boxer Kenny Egan. Paralympians will include cyclist Katie George-Dunleavey; world champion tandem cyclists Catherine Walsh and Fran Meehan; Ireland’s rowing team, Kevin Du Toit, Sarah Caffrey, Shane Ryan, Anne Marie McDaid and Helen Arbuthnot; swimmer Ellen Keane; and Boccia World Championship gold medallist Padraic Moran.
Olympic Council of Ireland President Pat Hickey said: ‘The Irish Olympic team salutes the Irish in Britain on the occasion of the St Patrick’s Day Festival. This superb event is the start of the team’s journey to the London Olympics in July and it is great that several of our Olympians will participate in the Festival Parade to highlight what will be the sporting event of the year.’
Liam Harbison, Paralympic Council of Ireland CEO and Chef de Mission for the 2012 team said: ‘2012 is a huge year for Irish sport but also for the city of London. The eyes of the world will be on the city for a stunning six-week festival of sport and the Paralympics in London is a huge opportunity for the Irish Diaspora to become aware of and celebrate the elite abilities of Ireland’s Paralympians. We are delighted to be here supporting the St Patrick’s Festival with you in London and we look forward to receiving your support later this year.’
The main stage in Trafalgar Square will be hosted by Irish stand-up comedian Rob Broderick. He will introduce award winning musician Gemma Hayes, whose much anticipated fourth studio album, Let it Break, is to be released in May. Also taking to the stage will be Ireland’s folk band of the year, the platinum selling High Kings, the names of whose members – Brian Dunphy, Martin Furey, Darren Holden and Finbarr Clancy – highlights their musical pedigree.
The Mayor’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations have been organised in partnership with the Council of Irish Counties Association. The presenting partner is 02, supporting partners are the Irish Tourist Board and Bord Bia and media partner is the Irish Post.
A huge crowd is expected and without doubt a great day in store for all visitors to the British capital, be they Irish, British or beyond. Yesterday’s Rugby ‘defeat’ at Twickenham has long since been forgotten after the many celebrations held last night throughout the United Kingdom.
Today a new day dawns and the presence of so many Olympians and Paralympians will be warmly welcomed by the 100,000 + expected to attend