Hickey gone but far from for­got­ten by OCI

The OCI is on a jour­ney to try and re-es­tab­lish its cred­i­bil­ity after the Rio tick­ets scan­dal, writes Daniel McCon­nell

Irish Examiner - - News -

Itis­thes­tarto­fanew era, one with­out Pat Hickey. Last night’s meet­ing of the board of the Olympic Council of Ire­land (OCI) was the first op­por­tu­nity it had to dis­cuss Judge Car­roll Mo­ran’s re­port into the Rio Olympics tick­et­ing scan­dal, and the ar­range­ment signed by its for­mer pres­i­dent, Pat Hickey, and the banned ticket agent THG.

Hickey has been at the cen­tre of fresh scan­dal for two weeks after it emerged he signed se­cret ticket deals with THG last year with­out the knowl­edge of the OCI board.

Those deals tied the OCI to THG un­til 2026, we were told.

That was what was claimed by Hickey’s suc­ces­sor, Sarah Keane, in the wake of the Mo­ran re­port’s pub­li­ca­tion.

So far, the fall­out from the Rio scan­dal has cost the OCI €1.5m, in­clud­ing cov­er­ing Hickey’s le­gal fees and ac­com­mo­da­tion costs in Brazil.

Keane told a press con­fer­ence the two deals were signed with THG, owned by mil­lion­aire Mar­cus Evans, on the same day in Jan­uary 2016, but only came to light in re­cent weeks.

Mo­ran’s re­port found Hickey and Evans had a “con­cealed re­la­tion­ship” and sug­gested they worked to­gether after THG was re­jected as an ‘au­tho­rised ticket re­seller’ (ATR) for the Rio Games.

Mo­ran re­ported that the com­pany which ul­ti­mately han­dled Ire­land’s ticket al­lo­ca­tion, Pro10, “was not a gen­uine ATR but its in­volve­ment dis­guised the con­tin­u­ing role of THG and Mar­cus Evans as the real or de facto ATR”.

The OCI is on a jour­ney to try and re-es­tab­lish its cred­i­bil­ity, all but de­stroyed be­cause of the events in Rio.

The new brood in the OCI have placed the blame for the mess at the door of Hickey and those who al­lowed him to run the or­gan­i­sa­tion as his own per­sonal fief­dom.

Hickey, in re­sponse, has said the €1.5m spend to deal with the fall­out was sanc­tioned by oth­ers, in­clud­ing Keane, and had noth­ing to do with him.

He said the high spend on lawyers Arthur Cox and con­sul­tants Grant Thorn­ton to carry out a re­view of events around Rio was again sanc­tioned not by him but by the new board.

Hickey has claimed the Mo­ran re­port con­tains “sig­nif­i­cant in­ac­cu­ra­cies” but he was “pleased to see his good name” was cleared with no al­le­ga­tion of “crim­i­nal­ity” and “fi­nan­cial im­pro­pri­ety”.

While Keane said the OCI is tied to the agency un­til 2026, THG is banned by the in­ter­na­tional Olympics body as an agent for the Win­ter Games in 2018.

Be­cause it is the Win­ter Games and Ire­land will have just a hand­ful of ath­letes com­pet­ing, the in­ten­tion is that the OCI will han­dle the ticket dis­tri­bu­tion it­self rather than rely on an ex­ter­nal agent.

The board meet­ing was over­shad­owed some­what after the OCI was forced to rub­bish a front-page Ir­ish Times story that it was seek­ing to be­gin a process to force Hickey from his role with the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee.

“We have not and are not trig­ger­ing a process. We have no pow­ers in this area,” a spokes­woman told the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner. “The OCI has not ini­ti­ated any process to re­move Mr Hickey from his in­ter­na­tional role nor will it. Mr Hickey’s mem­ber­ship of

“Ire­land’s Olympics body is at a low ebb, sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged by the last year

the IOC is a mat­ter for the IOC only. The OCI board will meet this evening to con­sider the Mo­ran re­port and re­lated mat­ters.”

Should he re­turn to the IOC’s ex­ec­u­tive board, he would be an ex-of­fi­cio mem­ber of the OCI, said Keane.

For its part, the IOC said Hickey’s self-im­posed sus­pen­sion still ap­plies. “Mr Hickey has sus­pended him­self from all po­si­tions in the IOC and the Olympic Move­ment. The self-sus­pen­sion was con­firmed by the IOC ex­ec­u­tive board. Mr Hickey’s self-sus­pen­sion is still valid and we will not spec­u­late on the po­ten­tial next steps as the pro­ceed­ings in Brazil and the IOC Ethics Com­mis­sion pro­ce­dure are still on­go­ing.”

The Oireach­tas trans­port, tourism, and sport com­mit­tee de­cided to ask Min­is­ter Shane Ross to re­quest Mo­ran to ex­am­ine the deal agreed by Hickey ty­ing the OCI to THG.

It de­cided that the Of­fice of the Director of Cor­po­rate En­force­ment and the public ac­counts com­mit­tee should also ex­am­ine the re­port.

How­ever, the dif­fi­culty with the Oireach­tas com­mit­tees get­ting in­volved is that they are of such lim­ited pow­ers that their meet­ings have been re­duced to talk­ing shops.

A lack of com­pella­bil­ity pow­ers and an in­abil­ity to make find­ings against peo­ple means they can­not be forced to co-op­er­ate with their in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

There is no doubt Ire­land’s Olympics body is at a low ebb and stands sig­nif­i­cantly dam­aged by the events of the last year.

Moves by the new board to prom­ise full trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity have to be wel­comed at least, but it re­mains to be seen will its ef­forts be enough to res­cue the en­tity from the erad­i­ca­tion for which some peo­ple have been calling.

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