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Rey O’Neal Receives the Order of the British Empire

One of the BVI’s sporting originators, Rey O’Neal, became
the first sports figure to be recognized with the Order of the British Empire
(OBE) for his work in BVI sports over the last 35 years. He received the award,
which introduced BVI sailors to the international yachting world, during an
investiture ceremony at Government House by HRH Princess Anne, of the UK,
during her visit to the territory to open the first Royal Yachting Association
(RYA) Centre at Manuel Reef.

Now the BVIOC president, Rey O’Neal was one of the founding members
along with Johnny Hassan, of Johnny’s Maritime Services, Nanny Cay Marina,
during the past several decades. Since its conception, membership in the BVI
Olympic Committee has been comprised of the representatives of various sports
associations within the British Virgin Island’s geographical area. As within
any Olympic Committee Constitution, there is a scope to facilitate the services
of persons within the community who have particular interests in sailing as
well as other sports.

It is significant to those of us living in
the BVI that Mr. O’Neal is now internationally recognized as the founder of the
BVI Olympic Committee, which has presented many BVI sailors to the world
through participation in the world Olympics. According to BVI Governor, Tom
Macan, himself an avid sailor, “Rey is a man who created the BVI Olympic
Committee and who has made the development of BVI sports, sailing and indeed
Caribbean sports, his life’s work,”

In order to participate in competition like the Pan American Games, the
Caribbean and Central American Games, it was necessary to have a governing
body, an Olympic Committee that is recognized by the International Olympics. The
momentum for the establishment of the BVI Olympic Committee came about in 1979,
when the Pan American Games were being held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the
BVI was not represented.

Because of this, in 1980 a group of
concerned BVI sports lovers got together and established the Olympic Committee
through impressing on the individual sporting organizations, including the BVI
Yacht Club, that in order to compete in these games, our country had to become
affiliated with the international governing body.

O’Neal, a
founding member of the BVI Amateur Athletic Association in 1970 and the BVI
Olympic Committee in 1980, is the longest serving president of any BVI sport
association. He is currently the vice president of the Athletic Association and
has actively been the president of the BVI Olympic Committee for the last 17
years.

The BVI Olympic Committee recently
celebrated its 22nd anniversary and has been responsible for BVI athletes
participating in the Olympics, Pan American and Caribbean & Central American
World University Games during the past two decades. BVI sailors have
participated in most of these events.

During Governor Macan’s opening remarks, he
gave a historic perspective of the award that dates back to 1917. During these
remarks he noted that yachting
was affiliated in 1981. Just before the 1982 Central American Games in Cuba,
the committee was informed that yachting was accepted and that was the BVI’s
first venture into the Olympic arena. The first Olympics that included BVI
sailors was in 1984 during the 23rd Games held in Los Angeles,
California. During the years the following BVI sailors have participated in
many of the yachting sections of the Olympics.

1984 – Los Angeles –
Keith Barker and Peter Barker competed in the 470 class. Dr. Robin Tattersall,
Keith Thomas and Elvet Myers competed in the Soling Class.

1988: Seoul, South
Korea – Matthew Anneborg.

1992: Barcelona,
Spain – Dr. Robin Tattersall, Robbie Hirst, John Shirley – Soling Class

1996: Atlanta,
Georgia. USA Yachting – Robbie Hirst. Michael Hirst. Sailing delegate.

These Olympians have
also participated numerous times in the Pan American, Caribbean and Central
American & the World University Games, as well as many national and
international regattas, during the past two decades.

In helping our sailors receive
international fame, Rey O’Neal told the press, “I’ve
received international awards from international bodies, but it always means a
lot more when it comes from you own community. I’m certainly very appreciative.
I regret that some persons who I would particularly have liked to have been
here to see me accept the award, have not been able to attend, but that’s a
part of life.”

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