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O'Brien adamant that he is the best candidate for OCI job despite conflicting recommendations

He faced a tough interview on RTÉ’s Saturday Sport.

OLYMPIC COUNCIL OF Ireland (OCI) presidential candidate Willie O’Brien believes that the length of time he has been involved with the organisation should not be seen as a negative factor in his bid for presidency, despite recommendations stating otherwise.

Willie O'Brien Acting OCI president Willie O'Brien. Source: INPHO

An executive member of the OCI since 1996, O’Brien is keen to stay on despite recommendations in a report from Deloitte that there should be time limits for members — that nobody serves more than 12 years on the council, consecutively or accumulatively.

O’Brien, Sarah Keane and Bernard O’Byrne are the three candidates hoping to replace former president Pat Hickey, who was arrested at last year’s Rio Games and charged with ticket touting.

The trio were interviewed by Joanne Cantwell on RTÉ’s Saturday Sport, and O’Brien in particular struggled with questions and appeared to contradict himself.

“There are 25 recommendations, and I intend to make sure that each one of those recommendations are provided for and monitored by the International Olympic Committee (IOC),” he told RTÉ.

Adamant that he is the right person to lead the OCI for the next four years, O’Brien would effectively be entering a sixth term, and not complying with the recommendations provided.

“You have to have a look at the recommendations in line with what the council requirements are. I disagree with it from the point of view of the continuity of service to the OCI.

“I spent two terms –eight years — as a committee member at ground floor level, learning from those experiences. And I’ve spent three terms, as first vice president, learning from the experiences. I’m now moving on with my candidacy for president, and this would be my first term.

“I agree that once you get to the position of leader of the organistion that the term should be limited to the two terms, with the option to the third term if necessary.

“Reviews and reports are recommendations. Recommendations have to be put in line with what’s the best practice for the organisation.

“I take on board all of the recommendations, but it’s not me alone. We have to look at what’s best for the OCI going forward and what’s the best platform for the athletes. We can’t just look at it in isolation.

“We wouldn’t bring in people from the outside for a review unless we were looking for that independent knowledge. We have to look at that independent knowledge, we have to look at how best it fits into the framework of the OCI going forward and what’s best for the organisation, and to produce the best results for the athletes.

“We will implement that recommendation. We will implement it when it’s discussed and the recommendations are looked at.

“In order to implement them, I have to stay on, and work on implementing them.”

Currently the acting president in place of Hickey, O’Brien was then questioned on his relationship with him.

Cantwell questioned how healthy it is that someone linked so closely with Hickey is now going for the job, while O’Brien did his best to dodge the bullet.

“It’s the OCI leadership we’re talking about it here. I don’t believe that has anything to do with my presidency going forward. I believe that the OCI leadership requires the experience that I have.

“I have to prove to the National federations and everybody out there that my work is separately focused on what I believe the Olympic Council needs going forward, not on the perceptions that they had there, something that’s been put out by Pat Hickey.”

Willie O'Brien, Sean Gaine and Pat Hickey brief the press O'Brien (left) and Pat Hickey (right). Source: INPHO

He was then asked if he backed Hickey.

“Pat Hickey was arrested, he is still on bail, and he is innocent until proven guilty,” was his answer.

Nominated for the position of presidency by Archery Ireland, the Irish Ice Hockey Association and the Irish Amateur Wrestling Association, O’Brien also gave his thoughts on what needed change with regards the OCI.

He admitted his wrong-doings in relation to the Rio ticketing scandal.

“To make the Olympic council more open and transparent, that the management systems are more in line with the modern 2017 requirements. To re-comply with the principles of good governance as monitored by the international Olympic Committee.

“The OCI has done many good things in moving forward in terms of transparency – providing better amenities, providing better experiences for the athletes through the work we’ve done with the Sports Council.

“I’d probably taken my eye off the line, in line of the transparency, and the requirement from the management side of the Games. Because I was so focused on making sure the platforms were correctly in place for the athletes, that we were working closely with the Irish Sports Council in terms of the technical preparations, and in terms of providing the amenities for the athletes. You have to rely on the members of the committee that you are working with, in some instances and in this instance, I admit I took my eye off the ball.

Of course it was a mistake [to rely on those people]. Nobody in particular. There’s 13 members on the council, we have to depend on each member of the council taking up their particular roles.

At the end of the interview, Cantwell asked him if he would travel first class as president of the OCI.

“No.”

“I have traveled first class yes. But never while athletes traveled economy. I went to Rio business class. The athletes traveled economy yes.”

“I believe that on a long haul trip like Rio, everybody should travel business class. Unfortunately, it’s such an expensive commodity, the OCI couldn’t afford that.”

But they obviously could afford it for members of the OCI so?

“They could afford it for them,” he laughed. “I will admit to that.”

After the interview Cantwell concluded that OBrien “wanted to point out that on only five occasions involved with the OCI he traveled business class, on every other occasion he traveled economy.”

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