David Cameron visits home club of British rower Alan Campbell during Northern Ireland visit


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Indy Politics

Prime Minister David Cameron today visited the home club of British rower Alan Campbell as he reached the final in his bid for Olympics glory.

The Premier spoke to officials and athletes in Coleraine and later met one of the young prospects who lit the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony.

He also praised torchbearers who carried the Olympic flame through Northern Ireland.

Mr Cameron said: "Our country is a small country that does big things.

"The UK is a country that can deliver, that can get things done, that can put on an incredible show, that can make people feel proud to be British and, above all, can provide an inspiration for future generations."

World bronze medallist rower Campbell finished second in his men's single sculls semi-final behind the Czech Republic's Ondrej Synek at Eton and qualified for the final.

He has been at the Bann rowing club since he was 16.

Club vice-captain Stephen Smyth said: "He has sheer determination and Ulster grit."

The club also boasts Coleraine-born brothers Peter and Richard Chambers, who helped power the lightweight men's four rowers into tomorrow's final and a shot at gold.

The Prime Minister met Katie Kirk, 18, a 400m athlete who is a future Olympic hopeful and was nominated by Dame Mary Peters to light the cauldron at the opening ceremony, at a civic reception in Coleraine.

Mr Cameron said: "The idea of all those petals (of fire) coming together... it was extremely beautiful and moving. It was also a brilliant feat of engineering."

He said the notion of having young athletes light the cauldron was inspired.

He told Kirk: "It was a beautiful, magical moment for our country and it was great that you were part of it."

Kirk described the moment she lit the cauldron in front of millions.

"It felt really good, it was a brilliant experience," she said.

"The atmosphere was emotional and electrifying, really."

Mr Cameron joked that he was finding it hard to sleep in Downing Street because of the noise from the nearby beach volleyball.

He met a series of torchbearers from Northern Ireland, among thousands who carried it around the UK.

Mr Cameron added: "The Olympic Games is something not just for London, not just for England, it is something for the whole of the UK and it really brings it home to me, coming here to Coleraine and seeing the amazing contribution you are making to our rowing."

He pointed out that a lot of things were said about the Games in advance that have not turned out to be the case.

"Getting the venues together, it has been brilliantly organised, with fantastic venues built on time and under budget. We can see a really professional, well put on, strong Games," he said.

"The Games really have brought our country together, the torch really was a fantastic success."

He said it was a good move to bring the flame to the Republic of Ireland and won huge support across the border, showing everyone is taking part in the spirit of Olympic co-operation.

The torch was handed over at the border in a ceremony featuring Olympic medal-winning boxers Wayne McCullough and Michael Carruth.

Mr Cameron said the press centre at the Olympic Park was fitted by a Northern Ireland company, part of millions of pounds-worth of orders won locally relating to the tournament.

"On every level, on the physical infrastructure, on the preparation for the Games, on bringing the country together, it has been a huge success but the real success of the Olympic Games, what is in these few incredible weeks of sport, the real success is about the legacy," he said.

He added: "The real legacy is the message it sends to young people across the UK about sport, about competition, about taking part, about being everything you can be."