Monday 26 September 2016

Controversy eclipses our sporting headlines

Published 10/08/2016 | 02:30

Brazilian police have seized more than 1,000 tickets that were being marketed at very high prices
Brazilian police have seized more than 1,000 tickets that were being marketed at very high prices

Those following the fortunes of the Irish team in the Olympics are still waiting to see our competitors make the headlines instead of being eclipsed by controversy.

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They may have to wait a little longer. Already dogged by doping allegations, a burgeoning ticket touting scandal has now catapulted Ireland to the centre of the news in Rio for all the wrong reasons.

The Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) has promised to launch an inquiry into how €3m worth of highly prized tickets managed to be on sale on the streets at inflated prices, in a country wracked by crippling poverty.

This could have major consequences for the OCI, as Rio 2016 has previously threatened to levy a fine of up to 100 times the face value on the original holder as punishment. The OCI is adamant that it steadfastly adheres to the IOC regulations around ticket allocation. The sports hospitality company THG, which held the tickets, evidently has some serious questions to answer.

Brazilian police have seized more than 1,000 tickets that were being marketed at very high prices.

According to police, THG was not accredited, but got the tickets from an accredited company and sold them for a much higher price.

Separately last night, Irish middleweight boxer Michael O'Reilly admitted that he unintentionally took a supplement that may have contained a prohibited substance. He apologised to his fellow boxers and team-mates.

There can be no excuses at this level. Sport, and the integrity of competitors whom have given everything, are being unfairly tarnished. US comedian Rodney Dangerfield was famous for his catchphrase: "I don't get no respect…" But one of his best lines was: "I went to the fight last night and a hockey game broke out." Spectators, and all who respect and care about clean competition, are still waiting for the real sport to break out.

More of the same from new Health Minister

Neophyte Health Minister Simon Harris needs to understand that delegating one's accountabilities can easily be seen as a form of abdication. With the news that more than 500,000 people are now awaiting treatment, one had hoped that Mr Harris would have something solid to reassure patients and signal that relief is at hand.

Instead he put forward a five-point plan which was aspirational, non-specific and quite frankly disappointing. The crisis in health didn't happen overnight. It has taken years of neglect and failure to invest, coupled with a bloated bureaucracy and top-heavy ineffective management. But the new man in charge gave the impression that we can expect more of the same; talk and plans but little prospect of real action.

Mr Harris was not prepared to set a target for an overall reduction in the numbers awaiting appointments. Mind you, given government failure to hit most health targets over the last five years, this may be a moot point. He intimated that doctors will review case files of patients on lists, neatly side-stepping the fact that it was doctors who drew up the lists in the first place. He also trumpeted the appointment of an "improvement lead" - whatever that is - to cut numbers.

He signed off with a pledge to ask the HSE how "specifically" lists might be cut. Everyone knows you cut lists by having adequate staff, beds and theatre time to meet the needs of a growing and ageing population. Anything else is just window dressing and the ill and the elderly are entitled to expect more than that.

Irish Independent

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