Pat Hickey to play no role in Thursday’s OCI presidential vote
71-year-old: ‘Time has now come to pass the Irish Olympic torch to a new generation’
Pat Hickey will play no role in Thursday night’s vote to replace him as OCI president. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Pat Hickey has confirmed he will play no part in Thursday’s vote to elect his successor as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).
Hickey had already made clear his intentions not to seek re-election for what would have been an eighth four-year term for the position he has held largely unchallenged since 1989, although under the articles of the OCI, he is still entitled to both a vote and seat on the executive, given his role within the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
However, Hickey also stepped aside from that role pending the outcome of the ticket-touting charges during the Rio Olympics last August: in a lengthy statement to the 34 national sporting federations affiliated to the OCI, to be read out at Thursday night’s EGM in Dublin, he says the “time has now come to pass the Irish Olympic torch to a new generation”.
Three candidates are on the ballot to succeed Hickey: acting OCI president Willie O’Brien, who took over last August after Hickey stepped aside; Swim Ireland CEO and current OCI executive member Sarah Keane; and Bernard O’Byrne, former CEO of the FAI and currently CEO of Basketball Ireland.
“As you will remember, at the beginning of 2016 I announced that Rio would be my last Games as president and that I would stand down immediately after the Games,” says Hickey.
“Accordingly, the time has now come to pass the Irish Olympic torch to a new generation and I wish nothing but the best of luck and success to the new president, officers and executive committee of the OCI. From a personal point of view I am presently recovering from a recent medical procedure on my heart.”
Hickey, at 71, was released on bail in December allowing him return from Brazil to Ireland on medical grounds.
“I am sad to say I will not attend the EGM to say my personal farewell and thanks to you and my many colleagues and friends in the national federations,” he added, but “please be assured this will be done soon at the appropriate moment”.
Hickey also outlines his “great honour and privilege to lead this great Irish sporting institution as president”, referring, amongst other things, to the controversial three Olympic gold medals, plus one bronze, won by Michelle Smith in 1996, still Ireland’s only Olympic medals in swimming; two years later Smith failed a drugs test and served a four-year ban.
“I was so proud to see Olympic medals won by Irish athletes across a diverse range of sports including athletics, boxing, equestrian, rowing, sailing and swimming.
“Alongside this, on the international stage in 2012, I was fortunate and proud to be elected the second Irish man in history to sit on the Executive Board of the IOC after my great friend and mentor former OCI and IOC president Lord Killanin.
“It is also my privilege to represent Ireland as President of the European Olympic Committees and senior vice-president of the World Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) for the past 10 years.
“The benefits to Ireland of these positions were clear with my strong influence that saw women’s Boxing rewarded with its debut into the London 2012 Games with obvious benefits for Ireland not to mention the many Olympic scholarships availed of by Irish athletes in need of financial support for training and competition needs.
“During that time, I was delighted to preside over the inaugural European Games in 2015, the last continent of the five to organize our own multi-sport games.”
Hickey also says he left the OCI with “a positive bank balance of €2.3m last July and an enviable list of corporate sponsors which I had envisaged would be used on the ongoing development of young athletes and Olympic sport in Ireland.
“Naturally, I share the achievements with all my fellow voluntary members of the executive committee and you the national federations who have steadfastly supported me over many years . . . It has been my absolute honour and privilege to serve my country and one I am very humbled and grateful for. Thank you to everyone who shared my journey and who made it possible.”
There will be 42 votes in the room on Thursday, the president decided on a “first past the post” ballot, the winning number being 22. If the votes are tied at 21 the chairperson (normally the president) has the casting vote; the selection of the casting vote chairperson will be made by the OCI Council at a meeting prior to the EGM earlier on the night, and will be a current council member.
Existing executive members are also entitled to vote on the night, and Sonia O’Sullivan, an existing council member who is not going forward to re-election, will be returning from Australia to cast her vote.