Monday 24 July 2017

Pat Hickey claims he paved way for Katie Taylor's Olympic success

'Strong influence' got women's boxing into 2012 London games

Pat Hickey with Katie and Peter Taylor
Pat Hickey with Katie and Peter Taylor
Pat Hickey with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his wife at the 2015 European Games in Baku. Photo: GETTY
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Controversial sports administrator Pat Hickey has laid claim to some of the credit for Katie Taylor's historic gold medal, in a parting message to member federations of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI).

Mr Hickey said his "strong influence" was a factor in women's boxing being included in the Olympics for the first time at London 2012.

That games, of course, saw Taylor win gold in the ring.

In a farewell letter issued to 36 sporting federations yesterday, Mr Hickey left no doubt of his belief he played a crucial role in helping the Bray fighter to glory.

He said his involvement in various international and European Olympic committees allowed him press for a female competition in what had been until then a male only Olympic sport. It was one of a list of achievements referenced in the letter from his 28-year tenure as president of the OCI.

Mr Hickey (71) also mentioned leaving a positive bank balance of €2.3m last July and "an enviable list of sponsors".

Katie Taylor celebrates after winning gold at the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Katie Taylor celebrates after winning gold at the 2012 Olympic Games. Photo: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

No mention was made, however, of the circumstances in which his time as president was cut short by his arrest in Rio de Janeiro last August for alleged ticket touting, which he denies.

Nor was it acknowledged that the OCI's bank balance has had to be significantly depleted to pay for consultants' reports, legal advice, computer security experts and public relations advice in the wake of his arrest.

Mr Hickey stepped aside as OCI president temporarily following the dramatic events in Rio and will be replaced permanently at an extraordinary general meeting this Thursday.

Now home in Dublin on bail, he confirmed in the letter he was recovering from a recent medical procedure on his heart. As a result he will not be present when his successor is chosen.

Mr Hickey in Rio de Janeiro last year
Mr Hickey in Rio de Janeiro last year

"I am sad to say I will not attend the EGM to say my personal farewells and thanks to you and my many colleagues and friends in the national federations," he wrote. Mr Hickey said he had been proud to be elected the second Irish man in history to sit on the executive board of the International Olympic Committee, and wrote about feeling privileged to serve as president of the European Olympic Committees and senior vice president of the World Association of National Olympic Committees.

"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," he wrote.

Mr Hickey also wrote of his delight presiding over the inaugural European Games in Baku in 2015, which was his brainchild.

In the letter he invited the OCI to follow his dream of hosting a future European Youth Olympic Festival, making use of the sports campus in Abbotstown, Dublin.

He also referenced as achievements the Olympic torch relay across the border to Dublin prior to London 2012 and the purchase of a modern headquarters for the OCI in Howth.

Pat Hickey holding aloft the Olympic torch in 2012
Pat Hickey holding aloft the Olympic torch in 2012

Mr Hickey would have been entitled to a vote in the EGM as an outgoing member of OCI executive committee.

His decision not to attend will be a blow to the chances of acting president Willie O'Brien, who could have counted on Mr Hickey's support.

Mr Hickey had previously anointed Mr O'Brien as his chosen successor.

The battle for OCI president is expected to be between Mr O'Brien and Swim Ireland chief executive Sarah Keane, who sat on the OCI crisis committee following Mr Hickey's arrest.

The third candidate, Basketball Ireland chief executive Bernard O'Byrne, is considered an outside bet for the position.

Irish Independent

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