Page last updated at 14:36 GMT, Wednesday, 8 April 2009 15:36 UK

Dame Mary now has regal role

Dame Mary Peters will become Lord Lieutenant of Belfast
Dame Mary Peters will become Lord Lieutenant of Belfast

Olympic legend Dame Mary Peters is to become the Queen's representative in Belfast.

The 69-year-old, who won a gold medal in the 1972 Munich games, will become Lord Lieutenant of the city.

Dame Mary, who already has a Belfast athletics track named after her, said she was humbled by the latest honour.

"I just find it quite amazing that I should be put in this position," she said. She will replace Lady Romayne Carswell in August.

The Olympian acknowledged that her appointment was somewhat of a break with tradition.

"I would say a lot of former Lord Lieutenants have been from the aristocracy," she said.

"And I just think that maybe the time is right for somebody with a different background to take on the role.

"Lady Carswell is a very hard act to follow and I'm a great admirer of hers and she has great dignity and poise.

"A wee girl from a very average background to be the Queen's representative in Belfast is just extraordinary, I feel very humbled by it."

Dame Mary will be in the position when London hosts the Olympic Games in 2012.

Mary Peters
Mary Peters won a gold medal in the 1972 Olympic games

Belfast is vying with regional cities across the UK to stage training camps for national teams preparing for the event.

"We're trying very hard to get teams to come here to do their pre-Olympic training, their final splash as it were.

"And I hope that will inspire a lot of youngsters to see people coming. But you know every city in the UK is trying to entice teams so I'm going to have to play a very big role in trying to get them here."

Originally from Liverpool, Dame Mary moved to Northern Ireland as a child and has considered it home ever since.

After her success at Munich, she strived to encourage young people in Northern Ireland to become involved in sport and has remained constantly involved in track and field events.

She also devoted much of her time in Northern Ireland raising funds to build the Mary Peters Track in Belfast.

Later, Dame Mary, a former teacher, established the Ulster Sports Trust which was recently re-launched as the Mary Peters Trust.

She remains hopeful London will witness another local star climbing to the top of the podium.

But in the meantime she has a royal appointment to prepare for.

"It's quite amazing to be the Queen's representative and I just hope I can carry it with dignity," she said.

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