Athlone has been awarded the title of European Town of Sport for 2013 by ACES Europe, the Federation for the Association of the European Capitals and Cities of Sport.
Following a successful submission by Athlone Town Council, Athlone Institute of Technology, Athlone Regional Sports Centre, Athlone Town FC, Athlone & District Schoolboy/Girl League, Buccaneers RFC and Glasson Golf Club, an international panel from ACES visited the town to view the facilities.
In making the announcement John Swanson, General Secretary of ACES, said that Athlone had a "joined-up strategy for sport, where true partnerships were in place as well as a real desire to deliver sport at the hub of the community. We witnessed great examples of clubs working together," he said, "as well as the ability to deliver major sports events, such as the Community Games and the triathlon. The investment in sporting facilities in the town took vision, courage and determination. It is obvious that there is a passion in Athlone to have sport at its heart," Mr Swanson stated.
Mayor of Athlone, Cllr Jim Henson welcomed the announcement saying: "This is recognition for the town of Athlone as a centre of excellence for sport. We have a long tradition of participation and achievement in sport at the highest level. In today's society, sport is increasingly important for recreation and health reasons and Athlone Town Council is constantly working to ensure that sporting infrastructure is available to facilitate this. We look forward to further working with our partners on developing participation in sport in Athlone in 2013."
The President of AIT, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, said: "This international honour underlines the excellent work that is being undertaken in Athlone to position sport and sporting activity at the heart of life in the town. A wide variety of sporting interests are catered for here and with the investment in sporting infrastructure, people can train and play in facilities that are on a par with the best in the world.
"The economic significance of sports to Athlone is also impressive," Prof. Ó Catháin stated. "Hosting major national and international events like the under-20 Six Nations matches, the HSE Community Games National Finals, as well as various triathlons, have brought valuable visitors to the town; an economic contribution which has benefited all sectors."
Athlone joins a select number of European towns designated as European Town of Sport for 2013, including Cairo Montenotte, Forte dei Marmi, San Giovanni Teatino and Castiglione della Pescaia in Italy, as well as La Nucia in Spain and Náchod in the Czech Republic.
In 2012, Thurles was the first Irish town to be named a European Town of Sport, while Limerick was named European City of Sport in 2011 and Dublin was awarded European Capital of Sport in 2010.
ACES European annually awards the titles of Town, City and Capital of Sport, taking into account the role that sport plays in each urban setting in bringing people together, in improving people's quality of life, their psycho-physical well-being, and integration across all classes and divides. ACES works with the European Commission, and particularly on the initiatives presented in the white paper on sport.