Sports Minister, Caral Ní Chuilín today announced that the target set to host TEN international teams in advance of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has been reached.

Speaking at Lisburn Racquets Club where she announced that the South African Badminton team would be training in July, Sports Minister Carál Ní Chuilín said: “I am pleased to announce the South African badminton team have chosen Lisburn Racquets Club as their training base for the Olympics.

“They are the latest team to choose an Irish venue, and bring to 10 the number of teams who will base themselves in the north for their Pre-Games training camps for the Olympic and Paralympics Games.

“As with the other Pre-Games Training Camps in the North, this is not only an endorsement for local facilities but also a boost for athletes here as world-class competitors prepare in their midst.

“The All-Ireland Olympic Torch Relay has shown the spirit of the Games is strong here. In excess of 250,000 people came out to see the flame on its journey and support our inspirational Torch Bearers.

“I am sure we will all join in welcoming these athletes, coaches and support staff to Ireland. With all 10 teams, I hope their experiences here will provide the best possible preparation and provide a springboard for Olympic success.

“By the time the Games begin, the North will have been part of the Olympic journey for 1,000 athletes. I hope their experience here is a positive one, and they will carry this message to the Games themselves, and far beyond.”

Nick Harkness of Sport Northern Ireland added, “In addition to securing three pre-games qualifying events including the recent Celtic Chrono cycling event, and four pre-games training events including the forthcoming Wheelchair Fencing event which will welcome Russia and Hungary to our shores, we will also soon play host to the Paralympic Council of Ireland, the Cuban and Australian boxing teams, the Chinese Men’s and Women’s Artistic Gymnasts, athletics teams from Sudan, Quatar, Egypt, Kuwait, the Paralympic Council of Jordan and now the South African badminton team.

“We are delighted to have secured the tenth camp for pre games training here. Final preparations are underway to welcome all of these international athletes as they prepare and acclimatise for the Games and we wish them every success.”

Mayor of Lisburn City Council,Alderman William Leathem said: “I am very pleased that a Lisburn facility has once again been chosen as a pre-Olympic training camp. It is excellent news that Lisburn Racquets Club will provide a perfect training environment for this world class team from South Africa. Lisburn City has already played host to the Indonesian Olympic Badminton Team and it will welcome the Chinese Gymnasts here next month.

“Lisburn has a number of excellent sporting facilities that are recognised by both DCAL and Sport NI. On behalf of the Council I would like to thank these two organisations and the Badminton Union of Ireland and Lisburn Racquets Club for their drive and enthusiasm in attracting international teams to Northern Ireland,” he concluded”.