Friday 23 February 2018

Olympics chief quits State's London 2012 'talk shop' task force

Hickey slams body assigned to showcase Ireland at Games LONDON CALLING: Olympic Council of Ireland chief Pat Hickey, left, who quit Sports Minister Michael Ring's, centre, task force


IRELAND'S Olympic supremo Pat Hickey has quit a government task force claiming it is "a toothless talking shop".

The long-running 'London Coordinating Group' was set up to find ways in which Ireland can capitalise on next year's Olympic Games in London.

But in his letter of resignation to Minister of State for Sport Michael Ring, Mr Hickey, the long-serving president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, is scathing of its performance.

"I have become disillusioned over the last two years about the lack of progress on main key issues, most of which have been highlighted in the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Task Force reports," he said.

"I now cannot honestly see anything that has been achieved today in relation to many aspects of the group."

The committee, he claims, has become bogged down in efforts to get sponsorship for an 'Irish House' -- which could be used as a showcase and which would be used by Irish VIPs, politicians and business interests to promote Ireland during the London Olympics.

A plan to use Camden Town's iconic 'Roundhouse' has now faltered over a failure to get the estimated €300,000 sponsorship needed for the venue.

According to Mr Hickey, plans were well advanced to use it, and 'brand ambassadors' like comedian Dara O Briain were enthusiastic, but the proposed sponsor pulled out.

According to Mr Hickey, France and Italy will spend millions on venues in prestigious London locations like Pall Mall to promote their own business, political, cultural and sporting interests.

He is disillusioned with Tourism Ireland's attitude to the project, which he outlines in his letter of resignation, dated November 15.

"This Irish House would be a showcase for Irish culture, trade, cuisine etc, as well as a focus for the Irish Diaspora . . . in regard to this , I wrote to my fellow committee member -- Niall Gibbons, CEO, Tourism Ireland -- concerning this and to date he has not had the courtesy to reply to me," said Mr Hickey in his resignation letter.

In reply, Mr Gibbons said he replied to both Mr Hickey and Mr Ring on November 22, outlining the tourism organisation's position.

In his letter he says: "Stephen Hickey, Olympic Council of Ireland, met with Tourism Ireland staff in London in October. During that meeting, he made a proposal to Tourism Ireland for the Ireland House concept, seeking funding of between €50,000 and €300,000. As this would not make sense for Tourism Ireland as a 'stand-alone' project, Tourism Ireland was in dialogue with the Irish Embassy in London and other relevant Irish agencies up until last week."

Tourism Ireland said it understands a "commercial Irish venture" is also considering a 'stand-alone' Irish operation in the same part of London and "should circumstances change" it will re-evaluate its position.

Sunday Independent

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