Lord Seb Coe has had his Irish roots confirmed with a Certificate of Irish Heritage presented by President Michael Higgins at the Olympic stadium.
The LOCOG chair was delighted to accept the framed certificate this morning – the first to be officially presented in Britain – during a special visit of the Irish head of state to the London 2012 site in day two of his first official trip to London.
The Certificate confirms the Olympic chief’s Irish ancestry through his maternal great-grandfather Edwin Swan – an artist born in Ballyragget in Co Kilkenny.
Lord Coe, who takes pride in his Irish roots and even named a horse after his great-grandfather’s hometown, thanked the President for the acknowledgement.
“I am delighted to accept the certificate and will long cherish it,” he said.
He went on to recall his first meeting as LOCOG chairman was with the Irish National Olympic Council – where he promised to ensure they were as tied into the games as possible come 2012.
Pat Hickey, President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, who also joined the morning tour, was quick to confirm Lord Coe’s commitment had been more than fulfilled.
“You can thank that man [Lord Coe] for the fact that the Olympic torch is coming to Ireland for a day,” he told the President. “Without him this would never have happened.”
President Higgins expressed his further gratitude that the Island will see the ceremonial flame for a day during the torch relay in the lead-up to the Olympics Opening Ceremony, while Lord Coe added: “May the roads rise up to meet it.”
Mr Hickey, who was joined by Surrey gymnast Kieran Behan, a recent qualifier for Irish Olympic team, went on to extend an official invite to the President to join him as his guest at the London Olympic Games.
Mr Higgins, accompanied by wife Sabina for the tour, gratefully accepted before revealing his favourite Olympic discipline as track events ‘despite not doing any exercise’ himself.
The President also met with Irish Paralympians Michael McKillop and Sarah Caffrey who attended the stadium tour with Paralympics Ireland CEO Liam Harbison, who is also Chef De Mission for the Irish team. Both athletes have qualified for the Irish Paralympic team.
Mr Harbison told The Irish Post: “Being here at the stadium and seeing how far it has come is fantastic. It’s an exciting time already as our team is becoming one of our strongest to date. We can’t wait to get here.”
The President took the opportunity to attend a diving event at the Aquatic Centre while at the Olympic site, before moving on to The Kensington Hotel for lunch with members of the Cultural Olympiad and a late afternoon reception at the Irish Embassy.
He is due to attend a showing of Sean O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock this evening at the Southbank’s National Theatre – a co-production between Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and the National.