22 May 2006

Best family proud of airport name


Belfast City Airport has been renamed in honour of George Best at a ceremony attended by his family and friends.

It has been renamed the George Best Belfast City Airport

The new name and signage of George Best Belfast City Airport were unveiled on what would have been the footballer's 60th birthday.

Among those attending were Best's former Northern Ireland international colleagues Martin O'Neill and Pat Jennings as well as boxer Chris Eubank.

Best's sister Barbara McNarry said the renaming was "the ultimate accolade".

"The family are delighted with it - it was by far the family's favourite choice, so we're very pleased," she said.

Permanent memorial

The Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend died in November, after suffering organ failure in hospital.

The decision to rename the airport followed meetings with Best's father, Dickie, and close relatives.

Airport managers said they believed renaming it after Best was "a fitting and permanent tribute to his footballing brilliance".

A permanent memorial will also be erected inside the airport, and people will be able to make charity donations to the George Best Foundation.

Professor Roger Williams, the consultant who treated Best during his final illness, said it was "a fitting tribute for someone who did great things for Northern Ireland".

It is estimated that 2.2 million passengers use the airport each year.

Since his death, there has been a wide-ranging debate on how to commemorate Best in his home city, with proposals considered including a statue of Best outside Belfast City Hall.

Airline Flybe has named one of its aircraft in honour of Best.

George Best was born in east Belfast

The aircraft has a picture of him in his Manchester United strip and flies between Belfast and Manchester.

His sister Barbara said on Monday: "You can now fly on the George Best airplane into the George Best airport - what more could you ask for?"

At the weekend, hundreds of people took part in a celebration of the life of the football legend in the Cregagh estate in Castlereagh.

The highlight was the unveiling of a mural depicting a young Best, replacing a paramilitary image, overlooking the fields where he played as a boy.

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