Athens Olympics 2004 - Men's Marathon - Father Neil Horan
The Race - As It Happened
Men's Olympic Marathon Starting List
With less than four miles remaining in the 2004 Olympics Marathon, Vanderlei de Lima of Brazil was forty seconds ahead of the next closest runner. What happened next shocked the world. Father Cornelius Horan (who goes by "Neil") darted from the far side of the road, grabbed de Lima and pulled him from the road. What was as strange as the action was the attire of the assailant: Horan was wearing a red kilt, green knee-high socks, a green wastcoat, green tam-o-shanter, and a placard on his back that read "The Grand Prix Priest. Israel Fulfillment of Prophecy Says The Bible. The Second Coming is Near."
Neil Horan was born in 1947, in Scartaglen, County Kerry, in the Republic of Ireland and was ordained a Catholic Priest in 1973. He took up dancing and referred to himself as a peace dancer, devoting his life to making the bible and the prophecies better known.
According to a 2003 article in the Irish Examiner, Horan was quoted as saying: "I took up step dancing when I was studying theology in St. Peters College, ... mainly because I can't sing" and that he wanted to use his talents in the best way he could. Since then he has been dressing in his kilt, dancing for world peace and to promote the second-coming.
In respnose to his efforts, Horan has received letters over the years from politicians (including Tony Blair), embassies and celebrities. In 1987, Margaret Thatcher's press secretary wrote telling Horan that the then prime minister thanked him for his "sterling efforts in the cause of promoting world peace." In 2002, Horan offered to perform his peace dance for Saddam Hussein and his family, but the offer was not accepted.
Horan has made a habit of doing his jig at sporting events, including cricket matches and an episode in center-court at Wimbledon during a rain delay in competition. Then on July 20, 2003, it all got a bit more dangerious as Horan ran onto the straightaway at the British Grand Prix so that he could do his dance and promote his cause - forcing the drivers, traveling at 200mph on the race course, to swerve to avoid hitting him. At the Grand Prix, Horan wore the same costume he did for the Olympics, although the placard on his back read: "Read the Bible – the Bible is always right." For that incident, Horan was sentenced to two-months by the court for aggravated trespass and was released after serving six months of his term. After the Grand Prix incident, Horan did promise he would never do anything like that again.
Just two months ago, at the June 5, 2004 Epsom Derby, Horan was spotted by police and tackled moments before they believed he was about to run in front of the horses. He was later released without charges, although police did circulate information about Horan to other sporting events.
We don't know when Horan decided to target the Olympics Marathon, but it is known that he arrived in Greece at 4:40AM earlier on the morning of the marathon on a British Airways Flight (presumably not wearing his tam-o-shanter). For his escapades on Sunday in Athens, Horan was given a 12-month suspended sentence.
Horan's beliefs are extreme. In his two books (available online for download): "A Glorious New World" and "Christ Will Soon Take Power from All Governments," Horan explains his interpretation of the bible and the prophecies contained therein - both . According to an Irish Examiner article, Horan believes that in the Second Coming, Christ will rule from Jerusalem in a world where "there will be two classes of people: 'immortal saints', who will rule a world government for 1,000 years from Jerusalem, and 'mortal citizens,' who will become 'adopted jews' and live for 900 years."
Although still technically a priest, Mr Horan's permission to preach, say mass and administer the other sacraments were formally withdrawn in writing in April 2002 by the Roman Catholic Church.