Could Russian star be coming to town?

COULD Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich be coming to Ipswich next week?The world's media is expected to descend on Ipswich next week - for the unveiling of a 15ft statue of Russian rugby legend Prince Alexander Obolensky.

COULD Russian billionaire and owner of Chelsea Football Club Roman Abramovich be coming to Ipswich next week?

The world's media is expected to descend on Ipswich next week - for the unveiling of a 15ft statue of Russian rugby legend Prince Alexander Obolensky.

Although the oil tycoon may normally like to keep a low profile it seems there is a chance he could drop into town next Wednesday as he showed an interest in the statue when he helped to fund it.

He has been sent an invitation to the event by Ipswich Borough Council chief, James Hehir, but has yet to respond.


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Dubbed Ipswich's 'flying prince' Alexander Obolensky, a winger, scored a famous try at Twickenham in 1936 in England's first defeat of the New Zealand All Blacks at the age of just 19.

He later joined the Royal Air Force and served at Martlesham before dying in an air crash in 1940. He is buried in Ipswich Cemetery.

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Crowds could range from 40 people to 5,000 according to Mr Hehir, who came up with the original idea for the statue, and has seen it through to its fruition.

He claims that the expected attendance of Russian television companies, a Russian football team, BBC's The One Show and Radio Five Live are a tribute to the prince's worldwide fame through being one of the sport's best players.

Donations for the statue include cash from the Rugby Football Union, �20,000 from Graeme Kalbraier of Call Connection and a rumoured �5,000 from Mr Abramovich.

Mr Hehir said: “[Obolensky] is the most iconic rugby player since Jonny Wilkinson. He escaped from the Russian Revolution and then came to England where he went to Oxford and then played rugby for England before becoming a pilot. He was 24 when he died and had such an amazing short life.

“His try is often known as the greatest try of all times.

“I am surprised it has taken off as much as it has. I have had lots of personal letters relating to this and some have been very touching. I'm really pleased that it has been completed. It has been a tough thing to raise that sort of money in difficult times.”

The official unveiling will be at 11am on Wednesday, February 18, by the legend's niece, Princess Alexandra Obolensky.

There will be a reception held afterwards in the Town Hall for dignitaries.

Do you think Obolensky deserves to be commemorated in Ipswich? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Originally from Russia and later made a British citizen, the prince scored two tries in the victory which was his international debut.

Obolensky features in the rugby hall of fame

One leading rugby writer voted his most celebrated try against the All Blacks as “England's greatest ever try”

His rugby prowess has since seen him named in England's “most influential XV” ever along with Martin Johnson, Will Carling and Jason Robinson.

Prince Obolensky's family of aristocrats fled Russia after the Revolution. His family Prince Serge was a commander in the Tsar's Imperial Horse Guards in St Petersburg.

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