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The Open is a wonderful good news story for Northern Ireland

Notwithstanding Rory McIlroy's dreadful first round, The Open Championship, which began yesterday at Royal Portrush, can be declared a resounding success.

The fact that the tournament is here at all is testament to the efforts over many years of those who had an unshakeable confidence that Northern Ireland could host a major international sporting event, despite the logistical problems, concerns over the infrastructure available to support such an undertaking as well as fears over political instability.

As it has transpired, any worries have been addressed and the fans have come, in numbers that have surpassed all expectations.

Of course, something of this magnitude does not happen in a vacuum. It has taken determination, hard work and tremendous belief on the part of Royal Portrush as well as senior figures in the civil service, tourism, the local council and business community.

But importantly, there was tremendous support from the Stormont government, with Martin McGuinness, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster recognising the significance of hosting such a prestigious event, one that showed a positive and welcoming image to the world after decades of violence and division.

A united political approach was clearly vital in persuading the R&A to come to Northern Ireland for only the second time in the history of the tournament.

The triumphant staging of the Irish Open in 2012 was also crucial as was the influence of three world-beating golfers who by happy coincidence all hailed from the north.

As the Giro d'Italia in 2014 showed, there is a feelgood factor associated with major events that goes well beyond the devotees of a particular sport.

The Open has generated a buzz and excitement that may be hard to quantify but it can be recognised as something that lifts spirits in a way that is constructive and inclusive.

There is also a financial aspect to all this that cannot be overlooked.

It is estimated the tournament will generate a boost to the local economy in the region of £80 million.

There are undoubtedly benefits that will continue to be felt in the years ahead, as visitors flock to the north coast, attracted by the spectacular scenery, the stunning golf courses and the warm welcome.

This is very much a good news story and full credit must go to all those who made it possible.

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