Time to consign rotten culture to history

The murky ticket-touting scandal that has engulfed the Olympic Council of Ireland was compared to something out of The Godfather.

Time to consign rotten culture to history

It seemed the Mafia had controlled tickets for games, one TD said, and the resulting scandal showed the “abuse of power” that had festered within the OCI.

These were some of the remarks made at the Oireachtas Committee on Sport, as it got stuck into the critical report on the Rio ticket-touting affair and its links with the OCI.

At the centre of the scandal is Pat Hickey, the former Irish Olympic chief whose arrest in Brazil last year shocked the sporting world.

The former OCI president refused to co-operate with the committee saying he had received legal advice that it could interfere with proceedings in Brazil.

The committee heard how he ran his own “fiefdom” in the OCI during his long tenure.

But his successor gave an insight into how the OCI board operated before the ticketing scandal broke.

OCI president Sarah Keane said she knew change would not come about

easily.

People had their own agendas, she said, and there was concern about incomplete reporting.

After arrests in Brazil, it was decided to lock down all the OCI’s electronic communications. Ms Keane now says the board is united to introduce reform.

However, the committee also heard from Irish Sports Council CEO John Treacy.

It was no secret how the OCI behaved over the years, he said. He described how Pat Hickey “wasn’t easy to stand up to”, was a “very powerful and dominant

person” and “got what he wanted”.

Renowned mediator

Kieran Mulvey was made Sports Council chairman by the Fianna Fáil government in 2010 to make “peace” with the OCI, ensure (in his own words) there were “no international incidents” and stop any rows. That was the level of fear around working with Mr Hickey and his “lieutenants”, as Sports Minister Shane Ross

described OCI members

earlier in the week.

We also now know that Mr Hickey secretly tied the OCI into contracts with ticket agents THG until 2026 for future games. THG is barred from the 2018 games, as it was from Rio also.

Hickey was also paid €360,000 over six years as an ‘honorarium’ payment, an excessive sum as noted by Minister Ross. The final year of this fee was withheld.

It is clear nobody shouted stop while Mr Hickey ran the OCI. Those who ran against him as president also saw their sporting

discipline suffer, Ms Keane told the committee.

It will now be for other authorities to take up the findings in the report. But it is doubtful any more will be done on Irish soil, ahead of authorities in Brazil completing their inquiries.

There may be some merit in trying to compel Mr Hickey to attend Oireachtas hearings to answer questions, but this would be costly, take time and be fraught with legal hurdles.

Oireachtas Committee chairman Fergus O’Dowd put it succinctly yesterday when he said it seemed the Mafia had been in charge of tickets for the games. But for the athletes, the sports and the dreams of Irish Olympic fans, let us hope that the rotten culture in the OCI, as it was termed this week, has been consigned to history.

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