Cuba's Olympic boxing team will train in Belfast

The Cuban boxing team has selected Belfast as its training base ahead of the Olympic Games in London.

Cuba has dominated world amateur boxing for over three decades and the Caribbean island has amassed 40 gold medals at the Olympics since 1972.

"As well as giving Cuban athletes a springboard to success, it is my hope that hosting Cuba will inspire local boxers to achieve their best," said Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín.

"This is a huge coup," she added.

"This will create a legacy which will last long after the 2012 Olympics and resonate well into the future."

Dominic Walsh, Chair of Sport NI, welcomed the announcement, describing it as "the culmination of a lot of hard work by a range of organisations".

"As well as DCAL and Sport Northern Ireland, a number of other boxing clubs across the city have joined together with Belfast City Council, Queen's and UUJ to showcase local facilities and attract the world's top athletes."

Wayne McCullough, a silver medallist at the 1992 Games, was in Belfast for the announcement.

"The Cubans are traditionally known as the best boxers in the world, so it's an amazing achievement to have them training here.

"With the unrivalled boxing tradition we have in Northern Ireland, plus outstanding facilities and coaches, it's no surprise to me that they would be so eager to base themselves in Belfast."

Eight other countries have also confirmed that they will hold pre-Games training camps in Northern Ireland.

The Chinese Olympic men's and women's artistic gymnastic teams will train at Salto National Gymnastics Centre in Lisburn.

The Australian Olympic boxing team will train in the Greater Belfast area and athletics teams from Qatar, Sudan, Egypt and Kuwait will also set up camp.

The Jordanian Paralympic team will train at the Antrim Forum.