Returned from the Ukraine
September 04, 2023
When I shared my plan to visit the war-torn country of Ukraine, people thought I was absolutely mad! It was a similar reaction from the time I invited teams to my events amidst the turmoil of the 1970's and 80s, when our country was experiencing the dark days of Northern Ireland's troubled history. Yet, as soon as my visitors arrived in Belfast met our amazing people, their views changed immediately, as mine did towards my visit to Odessa, I didn't feel any fear or apprehensive about my time there or my safety. My response mirrored my guests of all those years ago, I was astonished and delighted to how they are just getting on with life as we did!
When I walked through the city I couldn't believe what I saw; a sense of normality, people smiling, laughing, beautiful architecture, nice cars, people just getting on with their lives and rightly so. However, a stark reminder hit me like a left hook when I turned a corner which led me into a different world, I witnessed the heartbreaking aftermath of a UNESCO Heritage site struck by a bomb and in that moment, reality hit hard, reminding me exactly where I stood.
I had an absolutely incredible time in Odesa! I had the chance to connect with a diverse range of individuals, including politicians, lawyers, talented athletes, and even esteemed city and sporting officials. Together, we laid down the foundations for exciting future events that will bring Ukrainian athletes to our shores and foster reciprocal travel as well. It was an experience that left me exhilarated and filled with anticipation for what lies ahead!
Exciting things are brewing! Stay tuned as we unveil our plans for the upcoming event in the next couple of days.
I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the incredible individuals who played a vital role in ensuring that mine and my friend Jim Crone's adventure was not only safe but also absolutely unforgettable. Your invaluable assistance has made this journey a treasured experience that we will forever hold dear in our hearts. Thank you from the bottom of our souls!