Rio ticket service ‘not fit for purpose’

A claim by former Irish Olympics chief Pat Hickey that he severed links with a ticket agent rejected for the Rio 2016 games are contradicted by emails showing his “long standing relationship” with its owner.

Rio ticket service ‘not fit for purpose’

Ticketing group Pro10 acted effectively as a front for the rejected agent THG and went on to provide a “chaotic” service for athletes and travellers to the games and was “unfit for purpose”.

These are some of the critical findings from the inquiry into the Rio Olympics ticket touting fiasco and its fallout for Irish organisers.

The scandal of ticket touting at the Rio games was ignited after an Irish businessman, Kevin Mallon, a director of THG, was arrested last August during the games by Brazilian police. As noted by the inquiry, it was reported that he had over 800 tickets at the time, many for big events.

Pat Hickey was later arrested and detained in prison in Brazil on accusations of ticket touting, running a cartel and illicit marketing. Since returning to Ireland, Mr Hickey said that he would be cleared of all charges in Brazil.

However, Ireland’s reputation and involvement in the games has been badly damaged by the scandal.

A judge-led report here on alleged ticket-touting at the 2016 games has concluded that ticket seller Pro10, which was appointed by the OCI, was “not genuine” and only “disguised” the continuing role of agents THG and owner Marcus Evans. THG had already been rejected as agents by Rio organisers prior to the games.

Marcus Evans: Owner of THG, which was rejected as agents prior to the 2016 Games. Picture: Jason Dawson/REX/Shutterstock
Marcus Evans: Owner of THG, which was rejected as agents prior to the 2016 Games. Picture: Jason Dawson/REX/Shutterstock

Judge Carroll Moran concludes that Pat Hickey kept the board of the OCI in the dark about communicating with Pro10, the firm fronting for THG. Furthermore, there are no minutes showing Mr Hickey notifying the OCI of THG’s rejection or Pro10’s appointment as the new agent.

But getting to the bottom of complex circumstances surrounding ticket selling and allegations around touting were “obstructed”, Judge Moran concludes in the 235-page report. This was down to individuals and groups not co-operating with the non-statutory probe.

The inquiry did not have powers to compel parties to attend and Pat Hickey and Pro10 among others did not contribute. Some who did not said this was to prevent self-incrimination, amid ongoing inquiries in Brazil.

The report says there was a “dearth of information” available to athletes, sporting bodies and the public as to how tickets were allocated in Rio.

There was a “lack of transparency” on ticketing from agents Pro10 and the OCI, it says. The inquiry also could not trace the individual purchasers of tickets and, therefore, the money trail.

The criticism around ticketing adds: “The ineffective and chaotic service provided by Pro10 resulted in a substantial level of complaints from athletes, their relatives and friends, from members of the Sports Federations and from the public.”

However, the inquiry refers to discrepancies in Pat Hickey’s version of events and what he did to try and ensure THG was not rejected by Rio.

THG had been the authorised ticketing agent for the OCI for the 2012 London and 2014 Sochi games but was rejected by Rio as an agent for the Brazil Olympics in 2015.

Nonetheless, Mr Hickey made efforts to support THG’s position with Rio.

Pat Hickey also later told RTÉ in a TV interview last August that the OCI had “severed” links with THG after the Sochi 2014 games. But the judge suggests emails contradict this.

“This account is difficult to reconcile with his relationship with Marcus Evans and THG, as is shown by the volume of emails...”.

The judge also notes in the report that Pat Hickey and Marcus Evans had a “long standing relationship”.

Mr Hickey, responding, claimed that the report contained “significant inaccuracies” but he was “pleased to see his “good name” was cleared with no allegation of “criminality” and “financial impropriety”.

The launching of an inquiry with ongoing proceedings in Brazil was “ill-conceived”, he said.

The former OCI president said that the report failed to include the “full suite” of correspondence from lawyers.

He said over 27 years during his tenure that the OCI was subject to checks and “no issues” arose.

Mr Hickey said he looked forward to resuming his international Olympic duties.

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