Generic image of the Sport Ireland Institute Gym

Sport Ireland Institute 2020 Annual Review Published

15 Mar 2021
Caroline O'Mahony
International, National
  • Report details impact of Covid-19 on high performance sport
  • Strong athlete sentiment for Sport Ireland Institute Covid-19 response

Sport Ireland today published a comprehensive review of the work of the Sport Ireland Institute in 2020, which details the extensive impact of Covid-19 on the high performance system.

Key among the changes in 2020 was the nature of performance support to athletes in 2020, with the majority of interaction moved online, with support at international camps and competitions dropping to near zero.

However, extensive Covid-19 countermeasures adopted by the Sport Ireland Institute focussed on maintaining and improving athlete and staff health and well-being.

Despite the challenges of 2020 and the closure of the facility during the early part of the pandemic, athlete sentiment toward the quality, access and availability of performance support services grew in 2020. In particular, athletes reported very high satisfaction levels with the Institute’s Covid-19 response.

While the Sport Ireland Institute facility was closed during the early part of the pandemic, an exemption was granted by Government to reopen in June 2020, with comprehensive protocols in place protecting all users.

Sport has shown incredible resilience over the last twelve months and our high performance athletes will play an important role in providing hope and inspiration to us all in the important months ahead.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin TD said: “The value of the Sport Ireland Institute to our high performance athletes and their National Governing Bodies was never more evident than the response to the immense challenges for the high performance community during the Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented postponement of the Olympic & Paralympic Games. Sport has shown incredible resilience over the last twelve months and our high performance athletes will play an important role in providing hope and inspiration to us all in the important months ahead.”

Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers TD added: “Like all areas of society, 2020 was a challenging year for high performance sport. The manner in which the National Governing Bodies and high performance athletes adapted to the realities of training in the pandemic is to be commended. The Sport Ireland Institute was to the forefront of this. It is encouraging to see such a high approval among the athlete community for the work of the Sport Ireland Institute. Recognising the need to prioritise the return to training for our high performance athletes, the Government acted quickly and was pleased to put in place the necessary exemptions to support the athletes and allow a return to activity in the Sport Ireland Institute.”

The manner in which the National Governing Bodies and high performance athletes adapted to the realities of training in the pandemic is to be commended. The Sport Ireland Institute was to the forefront of this.

Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers TD

The Sport Ireland Institute continues to collaborate closely with the Olympic Federation of Ireland and Paralympics Ireland in the preparation of athletes for qualification events and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. While the third wave of Covid-19 had a significant impact on the high performance community, Ireland’s athletes will be ready for action in Tokyo.

Sport Ireland Chief Executive John Treacy said: “Despite, the many challenges in 2020, the Institute has retained a sharp focus on preparing athletes for the Tokyo Games this Summer in partnership with the Olympic Federation of Ireland and Paralympics Ireland. Indeed, we are confident that Ireland’s performance potential at the Games this Summer remains undiminished due to the ongoing pandemic. As evidenced in the report published today, the early, informed and trusted sharing of information and advice from January 2020 provided a reassuring and essential support to the system. In addition, the swift adoption of digital support to athletes and the swift distribution of S&C equipment to athletes’ homes ensured that they could maintain training during the very uncertain early days of the pandemic.  I would like to pay tribute to the professionalism and commitment of the Institute team during 2020, particularly ensuring continuity and professional care for the athletes we support during the most testing of years,”

Although delivery of some of the Institutes strategic objectives have been delayed or deferred (due to Tokyo 2020 postponement), significant progress was made in 2020.  An ambitious range of initiatives and activity is targeted for 2021.

Director of Sport Ireland Institute Liam Harbison added: “2020 was a year like no other where the focus of our performance support team at the Sport Ireland Institute changed considerably. We moved from providing on-site support to Ireland’s aspiring Olympians and Paralympians at International training camps and competitions, to supporting them in their adapted training plans at home via digital means and keeping them safe and healthy.  Regular online connection with various stakeholder groups including CEO’s, Performance Directors and coaches ensured the high performance community remained focused on the Tokyo Games and ready for competition when permitted to do so. With the support of the Sport Expert Advisory Group and the National Governing Bodies of Sport we have carefully navigated level 5 restrictions under the elite sport exemption and have recommenced international travel to support Ireland’s athletes.

“I’m particularly pleased that the athlete sentiment survey results have indicated very high satisfaction ratings of our support to athletes despite the many challenges and particularly our Covid-19 response on their behalf.  

While our strategy implementation has been delayed in some areas in 2020, our team continue to implement our ambitious plans and have a range of target initiatives set for the coming year.”