'OCI is under attack from ill-informed critics', Pat Hickey's deputy claims
One of the frontrunners to succeed Pat Hickey as president of the Olympic Council of Ireland has issued a staunch defence of the embattled organisation ahead of elections to its executive committee.
Acting president Willie O'Brien claimed the OCI has been "under attack from vested interests and ill-informed commentators".
He also insisted that the organisation, where he has served on the executive committee for the past 20 years, was "well-managed".
The comments, made in a question and answer session with RTÉ Sport yesterday, appear to fly in the face of a critical report by consultants Deloitte, which Mr O'Brien has pledged to implement.
That report, commissioned in the wake of Mr Hickey's arrest over ticket touting claims in Rio de Janeiro, found the OCI was an organisation that failed to adhere to many of the basic requirements of well-run bodies. It concluded that demarcation lines between office holders appeared to be neither understood nor observed and found transparency to be lacking, with no oversight of auditing and remuneration functions.
Mr O'Brien said the biggest challenge facing the OCI was renewing the confidence of its member federations that it was fit for purpose and not lacking in transparency and openness.
"The challenge is to achieve the above, while avoiding distraction from time-wasters, power-seekers and allied elements, to enrich the excellent preparation structures already in place at the OCI," he said. "We have been under attack from vested interests and many ill-informed commentators, most of whom don't understand that the OCI is a well-managed autonomous body answerable to the International Olympic Committee and the national federations."
Mr O'Brien has acted as the OCI's president since Mr Hickey stepped aside temporarily following his arrest.
Mr Hickey, who is now home in Dublin on bail, denies any wrongdoing.
Mr O'Brien's comments came as candidates for election at the OCI's EGM in Dublin tonight engaged in a round of last-minute lobbying for votes among the council's 36 member federations.
The race for the presidency is being fought between Mr O'Brien, Swim Ireland chief executive Sarah Keane and Basketball Ireland chief executive Bernard O'Byrne.
Eleven other executive committee places will also be filled.
Observers familiar with the behind-the-scenes lobbying believe the contest will come down to a battle between Mr O'Brien and Ms Keane. Each Olympic sport will have one vote and outgoing members of the executive committee will also be entitled to vote.
But the electorate will be smaller than normal due to a number of resignations in the past five months, meaning there will be around 42 votes to play for.
The winner of the presidential vote will be the person with the most votes. There will be no second round of votes if the top candidate fails to get a majority.