Rio tickets scandal set to run and run

Michael Clifford says with the Brazilian ‘cast the net wide’ process and the limited Irish probe, it will be a while before we have answers.

Rio tickets scandal set to run and run

FIRST Pat Hickey, then John Delaney. For those who like to see controversial sports administrators under the spotlight, this has been an unrivalled week or so.

Both men — certainly until recent days — bestrode their respective domains with unrivalled power. Both were magnets for controversy, yet had sufficient support within their organisations to keep on keepin’ on where others might have fallen or retreated.

And to top it all off, the pair are old muckers.

Just before departing to Rio, Hickey told RTÉ that ideally he saw Delaney as his natural successor.

Hickey told RTÉ that he saw the deputy president Willie O’Brien as his immediate successor, but not for too long.

“Our understanding of it is that Willie will do a stint up until Tokyo and then the favourite at the moment to take over from him is John Delaney from the FAI,” Hickey told Morning Ireland. “John is very popular,” he added.

The 71-year-old who had headed up the OCI for 28 years was anointing not just his immediate successor, but the one to follow after that. Many observers would see Hickey and Delaney as peas in a pod, a pair of like-minded individuals, like two foxes in a hen house.

So it was inevitable that when the cops seized the passports of three OCI personnel and obtained warrants for the passports of another three, the name that would fall deliciously from every headline was that of John Delaney, largely to the exclusion of the other five, none of whom really cut it as a Grade Z celebrity.

As far as we know, John Delaney was not at the Olympics in Rio. He was not spotted there by the media. He has not been interviewed on site for the event and he and his partner Emma have not featured in photographs, loving life in Rio.

That immediately raises the question as to why he and others have been dragged into this controversy? Is the police process being used as judge and jury in the court of public opinion as a substitute for gathering evidence?

There is no doubt that there are some serious questions that require answers. What was a company, recently set up with zero track record, selected to act as the official seller of Irish Olympic tickets?

Why was this outfit — Pro10 — unable to facilitate the collection of tickets in Rio, as the company has claimed? Pro10 says that Kevin Mallon, currently detained in a Brazilian prison, was merely distributing tickets on their behalf, despite him being an employee of the company which previously held the contract.

How could such an entity have won the contract? What kind of process was used to select Pro10?

Then there is the manner in which the ticketing was conducted after the contract was awarded. A total of 871 tickets were seized when Mr Mallon was arrested, all of them issued from the OCI. Yet, some families of athletes were unable to secure tickets through the OCI.

Yesterday, the mother of one of the Irish sailing team told of having to locate a ticket from a Norwegian website. Gráinne Adams, mother of Finn Lynch, told Newstalk Breakfast that despite numerous efforts to contact Pro10 she eventually had to get her ticket from a Norweigan website and picked it up at a kiosk in Rio.

How, therefore, could so many tickets have apparently been available for sale when Mr Mallon was detained? One possibility being examined by the Brazilian police is that tickets were retained somewhere along the chain with a view to selling them on at inflated prices. So far, nothing has emerged to substantiate such a theory, but the suspicion is understandable under the circumstances.

The problem is where are we going to find the answers. Quite obviously, the Brazilians only have one side of the picture, with the remaining pieces to be located on this side of the Atlantic.

There is absolutely no chance the Brazilian police will get access to bank information in this jurisdiction. In such a vacuum, the possibility arises that they are just casting the net as wide as possible with little hope of really catching any other fish.

Equally, the non-statutory inquiry to be conducted in this country will not have the powers to compel witnesses or financial information.

It all adds up to the prospect of this issue running and running, before answers will finally be arrived at.

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