Europe’s top Olympic official was arrested here by Brazilian police in a raid on his hotel Wednesday on charges of illegally scalping Rio Games tickets.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]P[/dropcap]atrick Hickey, president of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) as well as chief of the European Olympic Committees, announced after his arrest that he was “temporarily” stepping down from his posts.
Investigators have reported over 1,000 premier tickets were being sold for high fees and allocated to the OCI under Hickey’s presidency. Tickets with a face value of about 1,000 U.S. dollars were sold for more than 8,000 U.S. dollars.
Hickey was detained at the hotel Windsor Marapendi, near the Olympic Park. After he complained of chest pain, he was taken to nearby Samaritano hospital so his condition could be assessed.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams confirmed Hickey’s arrest and hospitalization. “The police have been here, I can confirm that, and Patrick Hickey has gone to a hospital,” Adams told a press conference. “When we know some facts, when police give us some facts, we’ll let you know.”
“Now we have to await the legal procedure in Brazil to see what’s the fact. We can’t give comments on Hickey until the investigation finishes, let’s wait and see,” he added.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]H[/dropcap]ickey is accused of plotting with at least six others to illegally sell tickets for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Rio police said.
“Continuing our investigation, civil police discovered the involvement of Patrick in the international scheme of ticket scalping,” the Rio police fraud unit said.
Hickey, 71, has been OCI president since 1988 and is also a member of the IOC. The controversy has cast a spotlight on the accountability of the OCI, which receives about 200,000 euros (227,120 U.S. dollars) of funding a year from the Irish government.
Evidence of an alleged ticket-touting scam in Rio, involving tickets linked to the OCI, first emerged earlier this month when Brazilian police arrested Irishman Kevin Mallon, a Dublin-based executive for the British sports management company THG Sports.
Mallon was picked up at a hotel near the Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro, along with a translator, last Friday. Brazilian police said they recovered more than 1,000 tickets, believed to have been earmarked for the OCI, which were being sold for more than face value.
THG said at the time that neither the company nor Mallon had broken local or IOC laws.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]S[/dropcap]ince the arrest, the Irish authorities have been attempting to find out how tickets were made available for resale. Hickey and Shane Ross, Ireland’s sports minister, have been locked in a dispute in recent days, as the minister has demanded that an independent member be appointed to an OCI team investigating how tickets ended up in the hands of a third party.
The scandal was described by many media outlets as “a huge embarrassing development” for the IOC.
“The arrest will be a blow to the IOC which has made anti-corruption efforts a priority since a bribery scandal around the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics,” Agence France-Presse (AFP) said.
The Irish Times newspaper described Hickey as “an unpretentious, highly able and sometimes abrasive Dubliner who had navigated a clever and unerring path to reach the highest echelons of sports administration.” “After two decades of an astute and immaculately plotted progress through the highest corridor of IOC administration, it was a preposterous and surreal moment,” said the newspaper.
“Wednesday’s sudden and bizarre turn of events leaves Hickey looking, for the first time in an extraordinarily sure-footed climb, extraordinarily vulnerable,” it said.
Notes: Xinhua-(This story has not been edited by PGurus.com and is generated from a syndicated feed we subscribe to)
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