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  • Hickey Demise Wrecks Olympic Pecking Order -- OpEd


    08/18/16

    (ATR) The Pat Hickey scandal triggers consequences across the Olympic Movement.

    Police show up at Hickey's hotel room at the Windsor Marapendi. (ESPN Brazil)
    In a dawn raid on the IOC hotel in Rio on Wednesday, Hickey, 71, was arrested in connection with an investigation into sales of tickets allocated to the Olympic Council of Ireland. He is charged with ticket scalping, forming a cartel and illicit marketing. He could face a prison term if convicted.

    He has retained private counsel and another attorney represents the OCI, which Hickey has led since 1989. He has voluntarily stepped aside from that post, his IOC membership and an assortment of other positions while the case is prosecuted. Hickey could be in Brazil for a while, even if allowed to post bail pending a trial.

    Late Thursday afternoon Rio time the OCI said Hickey had been discharged from the hospital and had gone "has been accompanied to a police station to complete a deposition." He was hospitalized after he complained of illness at the time of his arrest. He is under police guard and is only allowed to meet with his attorney. His wife has moved from the Windsor Marapendi to what is described as a safe house in Rio de Janeiro.

    With Hickey out of the loop of the Olympics, the immediate impacts are far-reaching.

    Pat Hickey in Rio on Aug. 6. (ATR)
    His seat on the IOC Executive Board, is now vacant. Elected August 4, Hickey was the representative of the Association of National Olympic Committees. In that role he had been designated by IOC President Thomas Bach as the IOC emissary to help resolve autonomy issues such as the impasse between the Kuwait Olympic Committee and the Kuwaiti government. His seat cannot be filled until the next IOC Session in September 2017 in Lima.

    Hickey’s arrest also appears to mark the end of his time on the IOC committee for the Sport and Faith conference to be held in the Vatican Oct. 5-7.

    Olympic powerbroker and ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad has lost – at least for the time being – his loyal and trusted right-hand man. Hickey and Ahmad teamed up to oust Mario Vazquez Rana in 2012 after 30 years in office. Hickey was an ANOC vice president.

    Hickey’s presidency of the European Olympic Committees now passes to vice president Janez Kocijančič from Slovenia.

    Pat Hickey was elected as the president of the EOC in Rome in 2006. (Getty Images)
    Olympic Council of Ireland first vice president William O’Brien takes over as president.

    In the 17 years he has led the OCI, Hickey has been no stranger to controversy. A quick glance at the Irish newspapers this week confirms that. In 2012 Hickey issued vigorous denials after being accused of abusing his position to help the company employing his son Stephan Hickey, win a Rio 2016 ticket sales contract for Ireland.

    The company, now known as THG Sports, is a subsidiary of Marcus Evans Group that is at the center of this latest Olympic ticketing scandal. One of its directors, Kevin Mallon, was arrested by Rio police last week after more than 1000 tickets were seized, hundreds said to be designated for the Olympic Council of Ireland. Pro10, the OCI’s authorized ticket reseller for the Games, is also embroiled in the scandal.

    EOC Crisis, European Games in Peril

    There are more repercussions for the EOC from Hickey’s sudden exit, temporary or otherwise from the Olympic Movement. Fresh doubt is now cast on Russia’s preferred bidder status for the 2019 European Games. The multisport event, held for the first time in 2015 in Baku was Hickey’s brainchild.

    Pat Hickey after the EOC election (Getty Images)
    Last year Hickey was at the heart of negotiations with several bidders to host the second edition of the Games. Buoyed by the success of the event in Azerbaijan, despite the controversy over human rights issues, Hickey mobilized his EOC executive to appoint Russia as preferred bidder of the 2019 edition.

    The Games were – and still are – destined to be held in Sochi and Kazan, even with the revelations about Russian state-sponsored doping. Despite two reports from WADA alleging the Russian sports ministry engineered cover-ups and sabotage of doping samples at the Sochi Olympics, Hickey refused to consider other hosts.

    It’s not hard to see why. As honorary life president of the Irish Judo Association, he enjoys a friendship with Russia president Vladimir Putin, who is honorary president of the International Judo Federation.

    Hickey also has close ties with Russian NOC president Alexander Zhukov, who has fielded flak during the Russian doping scandal but is a rising star under Bach’s IOC leadership. He’s the inspection chief for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

    When the latest WADA report was unleashed, the Russian NOC halted negotiations with the EOC to host the 2019 European Games.

    With Hickey out of the picture for the foreseeable future, the EOC executive committee convening on Sept. 23 may plot a new direction in a bid to rescue the second edition of the Games. Talks with several other potential candidates are likely to intensify. The EOC general assembly in Minsk could even choose new leadership.

    Slovenian Kocijancic, 74, may fit the bill, although he’ll doubtless face challengers. President of the Slovenia NOC from 1991-2014, Kocijancic has been a vice president of the International Ski Federation since 2010.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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