OCI remain knee-deep in Rio clean-up operation

It’s been ten months and two days since the closing ceremony at the Maracana Stadium brought an end to a deeply flawed extravaganza in Brazil but, for the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), Rio 2016 is the Games that never ended.

The world moved on last August 21 and Ireland eventually followed suit once Pat Hickey was allowed return home and the ongoing complexities of the ticketing scandal that enveloped him showed no sign of unspooling into a neat and tidy ending.

The OCI didn’t have that luxury and the extent of the mess still to be cleaned up was made clear yesterday afternoon when Sarah Keane, voted in as Hickey’s successor as president last February, updated the media at a city centre hotel in Dublin prior to their AGM.

“It’s been chaotic, dramatic, traumatic and extremely costly,” she said of the last year.

Considerable work has been done to restore an organisation whose reputation and finances have both taken a battering: bruised relations with Sport Ireland, the Sport Ireland Institute, the government and other stakeholders have been nursed with particular care.

An athletes commission has been established to give a voice to those whose achievements in Brazil were so overshadowed while the OCI’s top brass spent two days in Switzerland informing the International Olympic Committee’s president Thomas Bach of their progress.

The 25 recommendations on good governance made by the Deloitte Report which was commissioned by, and focused on, the OCI’s inner workings are well on the way to being adopted and significant attention has been paid to the financial workings of the body.

An external financial accountant has been appointed to work with the OCI treasurer and board to oversee finances, new finance and administration policy documents have been drawn up, payroll has been outsourced and a commercial and finance sub-committee appointed.

All of which was badly needed.

The Treasurer’s Report read out at last night’s AGM showed the full extent of the costs incurred by the OCI as a result of the Rio controversy and, with legal proceedings still marooned in the Brazilian legal system, the figure continues to rise.

The outlay on legal expenditure and professional advice alone has amounted to €1.04m.

The Grant Thornton Report, commissioned by the OCI to look into the Rio mess and still not finished due to an injunction by the Hickey family, has topped €214,000.

Add in the need for public relations expertise (€84,000), data protection, consultancy and IT (€70,000), accommodation, travel and subsistence support for Hickey and others in Rio (€31,000) and the Deloitte Report (€18,000) and you have a grand total of €1.5m and counting.

“It is what it is and there’s going to be more,” said Keane.

The net effect of it all was to turn what would have been a €633,000 surplus into a loss of €826,000 last year but, with reduced reserves of €1.4m still available to them as of last December, Keane was adamant that the OCI will be able to “continue with operations”.

Challenges remain. Sport Ireland has yet to release the OCI’s 2017 funding while the last of their commercial sponsorship deals expires this summer but the possibility of selling the body’s HQ in Howth has not been brought to the table.

It remains to be seen whether the OCI would be in a position to recoup any legal costs incurred if a guilty verdict was returned on the Hickey case but the board has brought an end to the arrangement whereby an annual honorarium of €60,000 going back six years was made available to him.

Other issues can’t be dealt with so easily.

The Grant Thornton Report can’t be completed until the government’s Moran Report into the ticketing arrangements for recent Olympic Games is signed off while the ticketing saga trundles on with confirmation that THG, as things stand, remain the official ticket reseller of the OCI.

“Ticketing was totally unsatisfactory last year,” said Keane. “We do have contractual arrangements with our authorised ticket reseller which we’re reviewing at the moment. It is relatively complex and we don’t have the final say.

“Any authorised ticket reseller has to be approved by the local organising committee of the relevant Games. That will play out over the next year or so but those decisions have not been made by the board yet. Those contracts don’t necessarily end after the Games.”


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