Irish Indoor Championships stay at Odyssey Arena for 2012

Paul Hession (second from left)
Paul Hession (second from left) in action at the 2010 Championships in Belfast

Belfast's Odyssey Arena will stage the Irish Indoor Championships once more in February as the new national permanent indoor facility in Athlone will not be ready to host the 2012 event.

Athletics Ireland officials had been optimistic that the £8.8m Athlone Institute project would be completed early in 2012.

But the Athlone venue will not be ready until later next year.

The Championships will take place at the Belfast venue on 11/12 February.

It will be the ninth occasion that the Championships have been staged at the Odyssey Arena and is likely to be last if the Athlone project is completed as expected by next autumn.

The Championships made their Odyssey bow in 2003 and, apart from a mix-up over dates which led to the event reverting to Nenagh in 2005, have been staged in Belfast every year since then.

A host of big name athletics stars have competed at the Odyssey since the first staging of the Championships.

These include Roman Sebrle, Christine Ohuruogu, Darren Campbell and Derval O'Rourke.

Both Athletics Northern Ireland and Athletics Ireland have worked minor miracles in keeping the event going in Belfast in recent times.

Sport Northern Ireland pulled out of its sponsorship of the event in 2010 and also didn't provide backing for this year's event.

With 2012 an Olympic year, it remains to be seen if Ireland's top performers will join the many world stars likely to skip the comparatively short indoor season.

The World Indoor Championships will take place in Istanbul from 9/11 March but the total focus of the majority of top international athetes will be on the London Olympics.

For the first time ever, the European Outdoor Championships will also take place in an Olympic year so the competitive schedule for 2012 could prove extremely busy for Ireland's top athletes.

The Athlone venue, which is intended to have a six-lane IAAF standard track as opposed to the Odyssey's four lanes, includes provision for 1500 seated spectators as well as a basketball court and all-net court facilities.

Tickets are already on sale for the Belfast meeting in February.