HANDBALL captain Bobby White and footballer Alistair Patrick-Heselton have not been invited to an event to celebrate Milton Keynes’ Olympic and Paralympic heroes.
Yesterday Milton Keynes Citizen revealed that only one of the city’s eight athletes from the summer games – Paralympic fencer Gabi Down – will be attending the event at stadiummk on Saturday.
In a press release, Milton Keynes Council had rebranded the day as a celebration of the hard work of those residents who helped make the Games such a success.
But it had originally planned for all eight athletes – including gold medallist Greg Rutherford – to attend.
Two weeks ago, this newspaper revealed that the majority of the city’s sporting stars had not even been invited.
At the time a council spokesmen said that invites had been sent out, but yesterday Britain’s Olympic handball goalkeeper White and Paralympian Patrick-Heselton said they had never received invites.
White told the Citizen: “I’ve just read that I can’t make the celebration on Saturday, but I still haven’t had an invite so how do they know I’m not going. I am in fact in MK and free.”
And Patrick-Heselton added that the event may now clash with another important day in his life – his stag do.
“I havent heard anything from anyone so I take it as no,” he said.
“I should be having my stag do on Saturday so I suggest they let me know today.”
The council confirmed that wheelchair basketball star Simon Munn and javelin thrower Mervyn Luckwell had not been sent invites as contact details couldn’t be located for them. Luckwell had previously told the Citizen he couldn’t attend the event.
The news follows a series of other delays and false starts from the council.
Following long jumper Rutherford’s win on August 4, council leader Andrew Geary promised the city the celebration would be ‘something special... which has a lasting legacy’.
Suggestions included naming a roundabout after him, re-naming Station Square in his honour and holding a parade through the city.
But the council delayed any plans saying that it wanted to honour all of the Olympic and Paralympic competitors.
Council bosses eventually revealed proposals to hold a Civic Reception at the council offices, followed by a presentation at Campbell Park.
This idea was quickly scrapped when it was discovered Rutherford already had a prior engagement.
A revised plan followed, including a lunch reception at Milton Keynes Dons’ stadiummk prior to this Saturday’s game against Crewe. The eight athletes were due to be paraded at the ground at half-time.
However, Rutherford was unable to attend this event either and it became clear the other athletes hadn’t been invited or were unable to attend.
Yesterday’s announcement re-branded the event as a celebration for games makers and volunteers from the city, whith 14-year-old Gabi Down the only athelete due to attend.
The free event, which is being run as an add on to the Dons and Milton Keynes Citizen’s family fun day, will involve a number of sporting activities and will take place between mid-day and 3pm outside stadiummk.
The council’s failiure to have contacted White and Patrick-Heselton will further fan the flames of discontent among residents and opposition councillors.
At a council meeting on September 12 opposition members quizzed Mr Geary on the shambles, but he said he had nothing to do with the organisation of the event. Instead, he said Mayor, Catriona Morris, was responsible for the celebrations.
Citizen readers have posted numerous messages on our Facebook page criticising the council, some of which we have reproduced below this article.
Of the remaining athletes Rutherford was unable to attend due to other commitments, while table tennis star Andrew Baggaley had received an email invite but is competing in Germany. Cyclist Ian Stannard was also invited, but is away on Saturday.
Councillor Morris said: “We will be honouring our games makers, torch bearers and others who played such a key role in supporting the London Games.
“Who knows, the sporting day may well help us to produce more future Olympians and Paralympians. We want to inspire a generation.”
Comments on our Facebook page:
Sarah Smith: I think it’s too little too late, and the fact that only one can attend is not the best planning. I know it would be difficult to get them all together at once, but one?
Amanda Harrison: Very bad planning, this is a once in a life time event. MK residents and most importantly our fantastic Olympians and Paralympians have been really let down. This is absolutely terrible MK Council.
Anant M Vyas: Incompetence at the highest level.
Roxanne Mumsy Clarke: Bad planning. They should’ve made sure everyone was available before setting a date. There are a lot of disappointed people out there who would’ve liked to have them all together.
Anna Page: They should have started planning something before the games even started, because regardless of the results many people would have been delighted to welcome our local athletes back with a loud cheer.