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Minister for Transport Shane Ross has said an inquiry into the Rio Olympic ticket touting controversy has exposed the “shameful standards of corporate governance” of former president of the Olympics Council of Ireland Pat Hickey.
Mr Ross is appearing before the Oireachtas committee on sport to discuss the findings of Judge Carroll Moran on the controversy published last week.
The Minister said Mr Hickey triumphed commerce over competitors as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland.
Mr Ross said the OCI and Mr Hickey showed “utter disregard for the interests of athletes, their family and friends, and Irish spectators generally”.
“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.”
Mr Ross also said the deals done between Mr Hickey and ticketing company THG “created a lucrative stream of income for the OCI”.
“Nothing in this report suggests that individuals in the OCI were benefiting personally from these arrangements.
“But clearly commercial interests can never again be afforded priority over the interests of athletes, their friends and families, and ordinary spectators.
Mr Hickey has declined to attended today’s special hearing on the grounds that it could interfere with his right to a fair trial in Brazil.
The Moran report into the 2016 Rio Olympics ticket touting controversy by Mr Justice Carroll Moran strongly criticised the relationship between Mr Hickey and THG, a sports hospitality firm. The inquiry was established after a senior executive at THG was arrested in Rio last year carrying tickets that came from the OCI and Pro10. Pro10 was the authorised reseller or distributor of tickets for the OCI after THG’s bid was rejected by the Rio Organising Committee.
Mr Hickey, who is back in Ireland but awaiting trial in Brazil, has said the inquiry contained a number of significant inaccuracies but he could not detail them at this present time.
Meanwhile the Olympic Council of Ireland is examining how it can break a “watertight” contract agreed by its former president Mr Hickey, with ticket distributors THG.
In an opening statement to the committee OCI president Sarah Keane is set to insist the executive board was kept in the dark by Mr Hickey and not informed of crucial decisions.
This includes a deal struck by Mr Hickey allowing THG to act as the official ticket agent for the summer and winter Olympic Games in 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024 and 2026, Ms Keane is set to say.
“It is evident that there were significant decisions taken with regard to future ticketing arrangements that were not brought before the OCI board,” she will say. Ms Keane insists there is no evidence of the deal in the offices of the OCI and its officials are basing their knowledge solely on documents given to them by THG.
The OCI has not seen original copies of the agreements and is working to determine if they are valid.
Legal advice to the organisation has prevented Ms Keane from detailing how much the deal is worth but it is believed there is a significant financial element involved.
Ms Keane said the OCI board will now consider whether it is appropriate such decisions should stand in light of recent criticism from a senior judge about the relationship between Mr Hickey and THG’s owner, Marcus Evans.