Bobsleigh ‘nightmare’ to go on, says chief

A SENIOR Irish Olympic official last night described the bobsleigh controversy which has overshadowed their preparations for the Vancouver Winter Games as ‘a nightmare’ which could cost thousands of euro in legal fees.

Chef de Mission Siobhan Hoey also expressed concern for the team of Aoife Hoey and Claire Bergin admitting that the happenings of the past week has “impacted on both of them negatively.”

Last week the Australian Olympic Council launched a challenge against their exclusion from the competition which could have forced Bergin, Hoey and alternate brake woman Leona Byrne out of the Games.

After five hours of intensive legal argument on Monday night, involving senior legal counsel from Dublin and Sydney, followed by 24 hours of consideration, the three independent judges of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), ruled that both nations should be allowed compete on February 23 with the competition expanded to 21 teams to allow the Australians to compete.

However that recommendation has yet to receive the green light from the International Olympic Committee and the Vancouver Olympic Organising Committee meaning that the affair may yet be forced back to legal argument.

However, Siobhan Hoey is optimistic that the worst is behind them. She said: “We are delighted to retain our legitimate place in the event. This whole episode has been a nightmare for the Irish bobsleigh athletes and the management team. The Australians tried every legal angle they could muster. They were successful in their strategy, gaining a 21st place slot in a 20 person line up. However, it has caused serious disruption to our teams’ preparations.

“This case shows that Irish sport has to be ever watchful, in order to overcome the challenges that face us.

“Even though this court case has cost the Olympic Council many thousands of euro to defend, we believe that whether you are a SoniaO’Sullivan or a person from a minor sport, we need to ensure that the Irish interest is defended no matter what.”

Hoey has an additional reason for concern as bobsleigh pilot Aoife is her younger sister.

She agreed: “Anything that causes stress or anxiety is always a huge concern. I am a bit concerned for Aoife. She is a very strong character but has been quite distressed by all of this.”

Meanwhile Aoife Hoey will carry the Irish tricolour in tomorrow’s opening ceremony with an estimated television audience of 3 billion tuning in.

“I am absolutely thrilled at being given this honour,” she said. “This has lifted our spirits in a big way.”


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