Pat Hickey’s plan to pass baton to John Delaney may be undone

Controversial president of Olympic Council of Ireland has clearly thought about ‘handover’

Pat Hickey has more on his mind right now than domestic matters. But as things stand the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has an interim president.

Hickey has filled the position for 28 years. Four years ago in London he said he wanted a smooth handover of power. That didn't happen. In the weeks before the ticket scandal exploded he said he believed John Delaney, the chief executive of the Football Association of Ireland, was favourite to ultimately take over his position.

It was clear Hickey had thought about the handover – if that’s the word in a democratic election – of OCI power and last month he confirmed he will resign to be replaced by first vice-president Willie O’Brien following Rio. O’Brien has now stepped into that position.


Hickey previously said he believed O’Brien would fill the role until 2020, with Delaney – the second vice-president - the “favourite” to then take office.


"Willie takes over until the next general meeting, which could be a year away. Then he has to stand for election," Hickey told RTÉ Sport. "Our understanding of it is that Willie will do a stint up until Tokyo and then the favourite at the moment to take over from him is John Delaney."

It all seemed a little curious that Hickey was calling the outcome of maybe two elections. But observers can testify that when it comes to OCI affairs he has rarely been wrong.

His power base has been unshakable. He always had the numbers, no more so when the presidential candidate Richard Burrows, current chairman of British American Tobacco, ran against him in 2001. Hickey won the vote 27-10. Now he has called for Delaney (48), who like Hickey is a controversial figure in sport. Delaney was appointed full-time CEO of the FAI in March 2005.

"Some countries have problems with the soccer federations and Olympic committee, but we have never had a problem," Hickey told RTÉ. "After these Olympic Games I will be definitely, definitely be stepping down," he said.

What Minister for Sport Shane Ross may have failed to understand when he flew across the Atlantic is that the OCI do not exist for the good of Irish sport. Their mission statement on the OCI website is, "to establish the OCI as a premiere NOC (National Olympic Committee) within the Olympic Movement".

Fierce defence

Their raison d’etre is to represent the International Olympic Committee in Ireland. They are like a diplomatic corps, a bodily representation of the parent body, serving Olympic matters before all else. It is something Hickey has fiercely defended.

Things will unfold as they do in Rio. But the prediction of Hickey regarding Delaney and O’Brien in the light of the ticketing fiasco and the snubbing of a Government Minister seems much less certain than it did weeks ago.

That of course depends on the 30 odd votes of the Irish federations, whose support Hickey believes he has. In the past they have largely stood behind him. Whether they will stand behind Delaney and whether they want a handpicked candidate to continue running the old regime is now open to question.

Regardless of the outcome in Rio, some Irish sports may see it as an opportunity for complete change.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times