Bolt given special visa by Ireland for London 2012
FEBRUARY 4 - USIAN BOLT, the triple Olympic champion, heads a list of 31 athletes from around the world given special permission to travel in and out of Ireland during the build-up to London 2012.
Fellow Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell is also listed as are several top Kenyan distance runners, all of whom would normally be required to apply for a standard visa for each visit, which can take up to 12 weeks to process.
But now they have been given visas which allow them to spend up to 90 days a time in Ireland.
The visas have been issued mainly so that the athletes, who also include Ethiopia’s world marathon record holder Haile Gebrselassie, so that they can receive treatment from Gerard Hartmann, arguably the world’s leading sports therapist who has a clinic in Limerick.
Ricky Simms, Bolt’s Irish-born manager, had been lobbying for the special visa since last year when Bolt won three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, the 100 metres, the 200m and the 4x100m relay, all in world record times.
Hartmann, a former national-class triathlete, works with many of the world’s top athletes, helping Dame Kelly Holmes to win her two Olympic gold medals at Athens in 2004 and has had a long-term relationship with Paula Radcliffe, the world record holder for the marathon.
He and Simms drew up a list of athletes for submission to Ireland’s Department of Justice, requesting the special visa status in the run-up to the London Olympics.
Hartmann said: “What the Department of Justice has done is allocated visas to 31 athletes, including Bolt, and his coach Glen Mills.
“It’s a four-year visa, active from now, which allows them to enter Ireland for up to 90 days on each visit.
"It’s something Ricky Simms has been very eager to get sorted in the run-up to London 2012.
"And I believe it is a big coup d’鴡t for Ireland and of course Limerick in that run-up to London 2012.”
Powell is managed by Paul Doyle, who is married to Ireland’s former 400m record holder Karen Shinkins
Dave Mahedy, the head of sport at the University of Limerick, had also been involved in persuading the Irish Government to grant the visas.
He said: “Certain countries do need special visas to come into Ireland.
"It’s not like athletes from the EU (European Union), who can come and go.
“Usain Bolt couldn’t just arrive at Shannon airport, and away we go.
"We’d been in touch with the Ministry of Justice, and they’ve been brilliant, a great help.
"It’s a multi-entry visa, which will allow them to come and go, as long as they don’t stay over 90 days.
“So with that road smoothed out now it’s a real prospect that Bolt will be in Limerick in the near future.
"It’s very exciting, for Ireland, and for the University, that these athletes want to come here to get treatment.
“This is another huge boost to the University and we’re absolutely over the moon about it, to think the fastest man on earth is coming to Ireland.”