Thursday 21 November 2019

Russians tried to get me out of Brazilian jail, says Pat Hickey

Former OCI president Pat Hickey Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Former OCI president Pat Hickey Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Mark O'Regan

Former OCI President Pat Hickey has said it was like being part of a "Doctor Who movie" when he was arrested and imprisoned in a Brazilian jail.

And he has also claimed the Russian government tried to secure his release from prison as the controversy over the alleged illegal resale of Olympic tickets escalated.

He also said that as he was taken into custody, he suffered a heart attack "on the spot".

Referring to the Russian president, Mr Hickey pointed out that he has "known Vladimir Putin" for between eight to 10 years. Their relationship developed from a shared love of judo, Mr Hickey said in an exclusive interview with journalist Paul Williams for an podcast.

"He's the patron of the Judo Federation in Russia and the World Judo Federation and I meet him at tournaments," Mr Hickey said of Mr Putin.

"He is not an honorary black belt - he's a fighting black belt. We'd talk about the stars of judo... that relationship built up between us."

Mr Hickey added he often got an invitation to visit Mr Putin in the Kremlin if he happened to be in Russia on business matters.

He described it as "a great honour and privilege" to have had dinner with the Russian president in the company of a number of other people.

"I know for a fact that the Russian government made representations on my behalf," Mr Hickey said. "The Polish government made representations on my behalf. The Russians were active and the Polish were active."

But Mr Hickey said given the position he found himself in, he needed representation at a particular level, such as prime minister to prime minister, or president to president.

"Nothing like that was happening. There was zilch," he said.

Mr Hickey's arrest in a dressing gown at the luxury Windsor Marapendi hotel attracted international media coverage and signalled the beginning of the end of a 28-year reign as chief of the OCI.

Recalling the night of his arrest, he said when he opened the door of his son's hotel room, he was confronted by masked police officers brandishing "machine guns".

He suffered a heart attack "on the spot".

"The policeman thought he was in a movie. The media pay for everything over there," Mr Hickey said.

"They paid the police when they arrested me in the morning, so they could have the cameras up front, and everybody saw me opening the door in my dressing gown.

"I was humiliated. It was dreadful. My son, and his wife and my grandson had just left. I was in that room because I had trouble sleeping with all the chaos. I went in there to grab quiet and peace."

Sunday Independent

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