Rio report reveals ‘rotten OCI culture’, says Sports Minister

Sports Minister Shane Ross has said the Rio ticket- touting inquiry has revealed an “unknown rotten culture” at the heart of the Olympic Council of Ireland.

The report criticised the “chaotic” handling of tickets and raised concern about the lack of records of ticket exchanges with agents.

Released this week, the report led to the OCI apologising to athletes and families.

The arrests of the then OCI president, Pat Hickey, and others at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro last year prompted Mr Ross to launch a non-statutory inquiry.

He told the Oireachtas committee on sport that Judge Carroll Moran had revealed a “hitherto unknown rotten culture at the heart of the OCI”.

“He has shined (sic) a light on these matters. He has highlighted shameful standards of corporate governance under Mr Hickey’s presidency and a triumph of commerce over competitors,” said Mr Ross.

He outlined the series of events leading up to the arrests in Rio de Janeiro as well as the follow-up actions, defending the decision to hold a non-statutory inquiry.

Mr Ross described how agents THG, which handled OCI tickets for the Olympic Games in London in 2012, was banned by Brazil last year, but Pro10 was set up as a front for the group.

“The OCI went to great lengths to secure high-value tickets for resale by these companies,” committee members were told.

Mr Ross highlighted how the report showed “multiple failings” by Pro10 and stressed that “sham companies do not deliver”.

The treatment of athletes and their families was “shambolic”.

Mr Ross, who had tried to ask Mr Hickey questions when he travelled to Brazil originally, said the former OCI president “operated almost entirely without oversight”.

“The board [of the OCI] was little more than a rubber stamp on decisions taken by the president,” said Mr Ross.

He has also questioned voluntary amounts paid by the OCI to Mr Hickey as gestures or “honorarium” payments as he was the president of the OCI.

Payments of €60,000 a year were “far in excess of what might reasonably be considered an honorarium,” said Mr Ross.

Committee member and Fine Gael senator Frank Feighan said he could not understand why the former OCI board had allowed Mr Hickey to run “his own personal fiefdom” .

Solidarity TD Mick Barry questioned why the inquiry, initially scheduled for 12 weeks but which lasted a year and cost the taxpayers some €300,000, had emerged as a “damp squib” without the co-operation of Mr Hickey, ticketing agents, and others.

The committee will resume hearings today after a clerk became suddenly ill during proceedings yesterday.

Members are also expected to consider whether to try and compel Mr Hickey to attend proceedings, a course of action which would require votes in the Seanad and Dáil, committee approvals, and could see a legal challenge.

A similar course of action was considered for the banking inquiry. It involves what is known as a Part 2 inquiry, where a committee triggers an order compelling a witness to answer questions, a refusal which can result in huge fines or even jail.

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