Olympic council chief quits 2012 group citing lack of progress

Mon, Nov 28, 2011, 00:00

OLYMPIC COUNCIL of Ireland president Pat Hickey has resigned from a task force established to help Ireland capitalise on the staging of the 2012 Olympics in London.

Mr Hickey cited the lack of progress in providing the world-class facilities that would entice teams to train here before going on to London.

He had previously suggested that the lack of facilities meant the Republic had “lost out on a huge legacy” that the London Olympics could have brought.

His resignation letter also cites the lack of financial backing for the “Irish house” in London during the games.

However, the Olympic council’s spokesman said this matter was peripheral and the failure to improve facilities here in the run-up to the games was the main reason for the resignation.

Pat Hickey is abroad and was unavailable for comment.

Mr Hickey formally lodged his resignation from the London co-ordinating group with the chairman of the group, Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring.

The group comprises representatives from the Irish Sports Council, the Olympic Council of Ireland, Paralympics Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland, the Arts Council, Culture Ireland, the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

It emerged at the weekend that Tourism Ireland had rejected a pitch by Mr Hickey’s son, Stephen, to provide up to €300,000 in funding for a proposed “Irish house” in London during the games.

The facility would have been used to entertain VIPs and to showcase the best of Irish culture and trade. Stephen Hickey works for the THG Sports group in the UK.

THG Sports is the sports hospitality division of the Marcus Evans Group. It is also the official London 2012 ticket reseller for Ireland, Malta and Greece.

The Olympic Council of Ireland spokesman said THG Sports had been appointed by the council to find a location for the “Irish Olympic House” and to run it in the approach to, and during, the games. The spokesman said THG Sports was appointed to manage the Irish house project before Stephen Hickey worked for it.

As part of THG’s efforts to find funding to run the Irish house, Stephen Hickey met Tourism Ireland staff in London in October.

In a statement to The Irish Times, Tourism Ireland said he made a proposal relating to the Irish Olympic House, seeking between €50,000 and €300,000 in funding from Tourism Ireland for the project.

Tourism Ireland decided in consultation with the Irish Embassy in London that funding such a stand-alone project “would make no sense”.

This view was formally relayed by its chief executive, Niall Gibbons, to Mr Ring and Pat Hickey in correspondence dated November 22nd.

Mr Hickey had resigned from the London co-ordinating group a week earlier.