The OCI is on a journey to try and re-establish its credibility after the Rio tickets scandal, writes Daniel McConnell.
It is the start of a new era, one without Pat Hickey.
Last night’s meeting of the board of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) was the first opportunity it had to discuss Judge Carroll Moran’s report into the Rio Olympics ticketing scandal, and the arrangement signed by its former president, Pat Hickey, and the banned ticket agent THG.
Hickey has been at the centre of fresh scandal for two weeks after it emerged he signed secret ticket deals with THG last year without the knowledge of the OCI board.
Those deals tied the OCI to THG until 2026, we were told.
That was what was claimed by Hickey’s successor, Sarah Keane, in the wake of the Moran report’s publication.
So far, the fallout from the Rio scandal has cost the OCI €1.5m, including covering Hickey’s legal fees and accommodation costs in Brazil.
Keane told a press conference the two deals were signed with THG, owned by millionaire Marcus Evans, on the same day in January 2016, but only came to light in recent weeks.
Moran’s report found Hickey and Evans had a “concealed relationship” and suggested they worked together after THG was rejected as an ‘authorised ticket reseller’ (ATR) for the Rio Games.
Moran reported that the company which ultimately handled Ireland’s ticket allocation, Pro10, “was not a genuine ATR but its involvement disguised the continuing role of THG and Marcus Evans as the real or de facto ATR”.
The OCI is on a journey to try and re-establish its credibility, all but destroyed because of the events in Rio.
The new brood in the OCI have placed the blame for the mess at the door of Hickey and those who allowed him to run the organisation as his own personal fiefdom.
Hickey, in response, has said the €1.5m spend to deal with the fallout was sanctioned by others, including Keane, and had nothing to do with him.
He said the high spend on lawyers Arthur Cox and consultants Grant Thornton to carry out a review of events around Rio was again sanctioned not by him but by the new board.
Hickey has claimed the Moran report contains “significant inaccuracies” but he was “pleased to see his good name” was cleared with no allegation of “criminality” and “financial impropriety”.
While Keane said the OCI is tied to the agency until 2026, THG is banned by the international Olympics body as an agent for the Winter Games in 2018.
Because it is the Winter Games and Ireland will have just a handful of athletes competing, the intention is that the OCI will handle the ticket distribution itself rather than rely on an external agent.
The board meeting was overshadowed somewhat after the OCI was forced to rubbish a front-page Irish Times story that it was seeking to begin a process to force Hickey from his role with the International Olympic Committee.
“We have not and are not triggering a process. We have no powers in this area,” a spokeswoman told the Irish Examiner. “The OCI has not initiated any process to remove Mr Hickey from his international role nor will it. Mr Hickey’s membership of the IOC is a matter for the IOC only. The OCI board will meet this evening to consider the Moran report and related matters.”
Should he return to the IOC’s executive board, he would be an ex-officio member of the OCI, said Keane.
For its part, the IOC said Hickey’s self-imposed suspension still applies. “Mr Hickey has suspended himself from all positions in the IOC and the Olympic Movement. The self-suspension was confirmed by the IOC executive board. Mr Hickey’s self-suspension is still valid and we will not speculate on the potential next steps as the proceedings in Brazil and the IOC Ethics Commission procedure are still ongoing.”
The Oireachtas transport, tourism, and sport committee decided to ask Minister Shane Ross to request Moran to examine the deal agreed by Hickey tying the OCI to THG.
It decided that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the public accounts committee should also examine the report.
However, the difficulty with the Oireachtas committees getting involved is that they are of such limited powers that their meetings have been reduced to talking shops.
A lack of compellability powers and an inability to make findings against people means they cannot be forced to co-operate with their investigations.
There is no doubt Ireland’s Olympics body is at a low ebb and stands significantly damaged by the events of the last year.
Moves by the new board to promise full transparency and accountability have to be welcomed at least, but it remains to be seen will its efforts be enough to rescue the entity from the eradication for which some people have been calling.
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