Hickey under fire from Irish sports minister for shunning hearing
Pat Hickey, the Irish International Olympic Committee member at the centre of a ticketing scandal relating to last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, has come under fire from Shane Ross, the country’s sports minister, over his failure to attend a government committee hearing in Dublin yesterday.
Ross, who said that the investigation had uncovered the “shameful standards of corporate governance” of Hickey, formerly president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, added that it was “inconsistent” that Hickey would not attend the hearing but that he had answered questions from the media over the issue.
Ross accused the OCI and Hickey of showing “utter disregard for the interests of athletes, their family and friends, and Irish spectators generally.”
He said: “Clearly commercial interests can never again be afforded priority over the interests of athletes, their friends and families, and ordinary spectators. I regret that the OCI under the leadership of Pat Hickey defied this doctrine.”
Earlier this month, the Moran Inquiry, a report commissioned by the Irish government, found that the Dublin-based PRO10 Sports Management, which was appointed by the OCI as its ticketing agent for the games, was not genuine, was “unfit for purpose” and provided a “chaotic service.”
The report claimed that PRO10 was actually a front for international sports hospitality company THG Sports, which the Rio 2016 organising committee had banned from being the OCI's authorised ticket seller.
Hickey declined to attend yesterday’s hearing on the grounds that it could prejudice his right to a fair trial in a criminal investigation in Brazil. He had previously claimed that the Moran report contained “significant inaccuracies,” but Ross argued that it would have been useful for him to have appeared before the hearing to explain his claims.
While the Moran report found no evidence of criminal activity from Hickey, it was highly critical of his “autocratic” management style. Hickey has said that he is “totally confident” that he will be cleared of all charges.
But Ross told yesterday’s hearing that he can see no way that government funding of the OCI can be restored until legal issues over the tickets are resolved.
Sarah Keane, Hickey’s successor as OCI president, has previously said that ticketing contracts the OCI signed with PRO 10 until 2026 cannot be broken. However, Ross commented: “That is a problem for them [OCI]. But we would certainly not want to fund them if there any outstanding legacy issues.”
He added: “It is certainly clear from the report it [OCI] was a fiefdom. The valuable tickets seemed to be his [Hickey’s] preserve.
“The flagship of Irish sport was in the hands of one man. It certainly won’t happen in Tokyo.”
A year ago, Hickey, who sat on the IOC's executive committee and was president of the European Olympic Committees until his arrest, was detained at the Rio Olympics after being accused, along with nine others, of operating a ring.
In December, his bail was eventually posted courtesy of a loan of R$1.5 million ($470,000), from the Association of National Olympic Committees, and he returned to Dublin.