Belfast airport to be named after George Best
Belfast City Airport is to be renamed George Best Airport in tribute to the late Northern Irish football legend, the airport's chief executive said on Tuesday.
The new signs will be unveiled in an official ceremony on May 22, which would have been the former Manchester United star's 60th birthday.
Best died in a London hospital on November 25 last year from multiple organ failure, after suffering a series of health problems linked to his alcoholism.
"George Best was the finest footballer Northern Ireland has ever produced and one of the greatest footballers to grace the world stage, and a man who the public had great affection for," said Brian Ambrose, the airport's chief executive.
"We believe that renaming the airport after George is a fitting and permanent tribute to his footballing brilliance."
An estimated 2.2 million passengers per year use the airport located in Protestant east Belfast, where Best grew up.
The decision to rename the airport came after discussions with Best's father Dickie and other close relatives.
A Best family spokesman said: "The airport is synonymous with east Belfast and with thousands of people using it on a daily basis, George's memory will never be forgotten.
"This is a highly visible and lasting memorial to George that we hope will please many people in Northern Ireland."
The budget airline Flybe's service between Belfast City and Manchester has already been renamed in tribute to the winger, with a life-size image of Best in his prime emblazoned on the side of the plane.
Belfast councillors have approved plans for a statue of Best to be erected in front of the City Hall.
Best's quasi-state funeral in early December at Belfast's Parliament Buildings saw tens of thousands of mourners pack the streets to bid him farewell.
The winger made his professional debut for English football giants Manchester United in 1963, aged 17, and helped the club lift the European Cup in 1968.
In the same year he was voted European Player of the Year.
But the party lifestyle took its toll and he quit United for good aged 28.