New president Sarah Keane wants to rebuild OCI credibility

Sarah Keane

The newly elected president of the Olympic Council of Ireland has spoken about the “devastating” impact of last year’s scandals at the Rio Games and hinted she would prefer to see a report into the situation published.

Sarah Keane, who was elected last Thursday as the successor to Pat Hickey, said there were “definitely huge challenges” around the Olympic movement and said she would strive to help restore any credibility lost as a result of events in the past year.

Ms Keane, who was chief executive of Swim Ireland ahead of her election to the OCI presidency, said over €800,000 has already been spent as a result of the incredible occurrences at last year’s Games in Brazil.

Mr Hickey was arrested by Brazilian authorities and hit with charges of facilitating ticket touting, formation of a cartel, and ambush or illicit marketing.

Brazilian police also said they were investigating the participation of the OCI with ticketing agents THG Sports.

Mr Hickey has persistently proclaimed his innocence of all charges and pledged to fight them in the Brazilian courts.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Ms Keane outlined her background as a swimmer and said of the process which resulted in her election last Thursday: “I feel now that we have a clear mandate.

“Sometimes crisis is what is needed to bring about a change.”

She said she was “very shocked by what happened in Rio” and also expressed sympathy for her predecessor, who she said was a “very strong” and “dominant” character.

She said she did not agree with the treatment of Mr Hickey by the Brazilian authorities, which she said must have been “dreadful” for his family.

Expenses associated with the debacle have already soared above the €800,000 mark and Ms Keane said it had been “financially devastating” for the OCI.

She said she hoped the financial outlay would ultimately be seen as “an investment in the future” and also referred to the Grant Thornton consultants report into last year’s events which cost €200,000 and publication of which has been “postponed”.

“I think the new board will want to look at that again and have discussions on that,” said Ms Keane, adding that her own view was that a substantial amount of money was spent on the report into ticketing arrangements and she would like to see it published.

THG is still the ticketing agent for the OCI for the upcoming Winter Games.

Ms Keane said she was aware that some family members of some competitors had previously struggled to secure tickets for events and said: “I’m not happy at all — nobody is — around that.”

The first OCI board meeting since her election is to take place this Friday and Ms Keane said one aim was to rebuild the credibility of the organisation.

She also apologised to Irish competitors at last year’s Games as she said that, for many people, it had been a very successful competition but that this got lost amid the controversies.

Ms Keane also said she did not want any perceived split between sports administrators and competitors, even regarding air travel.

“My view is the Olympic Council is paying for it, I will be at the back,” she said.


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