From top: Sonia O’Sullivan at the Atlanta Games 1996; Fr Liam Kelleher at the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics
Readers may recall the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
It was the year Cork athlete Sonia O’Sullivan was forced to strip naked in front of other athletes in order to change her running gear – from Reebok to Asics – in the tunnel next to the track just before her 5,000m heat.
It happened amid a row between the Olympic Council of Ireland, who had a reported £75,000 deal with Reebok, and the then national athletics organisation Bord Lúthchleas na hÉireann (BLE), who had a contract with Asics.
It was reported at the time that Pat Hickey, of the OCI, personally told Sonia she could wear her gear from Reebok – with whom she had a sponsorship deal – even though BLE had registered the Asics strip as the official Irish team strip three days before the competition began.
Following the incident, Mr Hickey held a press conference on the issue – which was attended by Ms O’Sullivan.
Further to this, Cork priest and long-time athletics coach, Fr Liam Kelleher, who was national PRO for BLE at the time, writes:
Pat Hickey has done some fantastic work which cannot be denied but his obsession for power has finally been his undoing.
I have known him since 1972, from my first Olympic Games in Munich all of 44 years ago, and I was not happy with the antics that happened in Atlanta in 1996 during the “Sonia saga” which again was well documented at the time.
I was Press Officer for the then Irish athletic organisation BLE and was totally embarrassed by what transpired.
I saw Sonia dragged to the press conferences after the gear-changing, controversy which must have adversely affected her performance, and remember being acutely sorry for her having to try to give answers to the assembled media.
What really transpired we will probably never know.
I was hugely upset too, and when I returned to Ireland, I resigned my position as National Press Officer of BLE.
I went on national radio on the News at One, then with Seán O’Rourke to explain my reasons. My great friend Frank Greally [of Irish Runner magazine] covered the issue with five pages on Irish Runner with title “Pastor departs”. It was written by Sean McGoldrick whom I actually met at the stadium in Rio last week.
At that time, in 1996, I issued a broadside against the Olympic Council of Ireland which made banner headlines in the papers and for which I was castigated, in many parts, for being way off the mark.
But, I got huge support from people in the know.
One thing I said and wrote was: “The Olympic Council of Ireland are democratically elected by nobody, are answerable to nobody and dictate to everybody.”
So, you can see, the warning signs were there 20 years ago, if they were heeded.
My outburst came at a cost. Four years later, at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, there was no way I could get a press pass – which had to be signed by the President of the OCI [Pat Hickey] – to cover the events for Marathon Athletics Magazine which I had been publishing since 1984.
In Sydney, I tried every day for six days in a row with the help of Frank Greally from Irish Runner and John O’Sullivan [Sonia’s father] but no joy.
Tickets were impossible to get so I was resigned to watching it on TV. Two hours before Sonia was due to run, I was with Frank Greally when Pat Hickey passed by.
Frank said,’Now is your last chance, bury your pride and go and ask him’, but I turned down Frank’s plea. We went again to the press accreditation centre put a bundle of magazines on the table and, to her eternal credit, the lady at the desk who at this stage must have been fed-up with me, decided to ring the communication chief and he gave the OK.
To my knowledge, it was the only accreditation given out without the signature of the President.
If I were asked now about the Olympic Council, I would have mixed views.The obvious one has to be transparency, and too much power must never again be the domain of any individual.
What do I think of Pat Hickey now?
I genuinely feel sorry for him as I stated at the outset he did a fantastic amount of work, he moved in high places with people like Russian President Putin numbered as one of his allies and goodness knows how many more, who can do little to help him now.
He is obviously suffering huge trauma and distress and if we want to put it in terms of punishment perhaps this is enough and let him go free. He has paid a huge price already.
From top: Independent Alliance Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross with Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Patrick O Donovan outside the Department of Transport this afternoon; Retired Justice Carroll Moran
Retired High Court Judge Carroll Moran has been appointed to chair the inquiry into the OCI’s allocation of Olympic tickets going back to the 2012 Games.
Paul Carroll, a Cork-based photographer and (full disclosure) a pal of ‘sheet cartoonist Mick Flavin, has spent the last seven years capturing “the action of Gaelic club games in unique surroundings around Ireland”.
Now he wants put the images together in one big buke.
Gaelic Fields will features the beauty of games played on the fields of Aran and Inisturk Islands, South Kerry and the Glens of Antrim to the urban landscapes of Cork, Dublin and Belfast and scores of locations in between…
Of his odyssey he adds:
…99 times out of 100 people were very nice, but wanted to know why a photographer had travelled from Cork to a Junior A football game in Dring, Co. Longford on a Thursday evening…”
A modest Kickstarter campaign [target: ten big ones] is currently active [see below] to ensure Gaelic Fields becomes a coffee table-topping reality.
WRONG: Crafty shrimp-lover JOGS like no one’s watching.
CORRECT: Classic Walking and heel action by Heffo (right)
Men’s 50km walk eventual silver winner (cruelly beating Ireland’s Rob Heffernan into sixth).
Daniel McMahon fumes:
I thought this was a walking race, doesn’t one foot need to be on the ground?]
Race walker Evan Dunfee collected Canada’s 12th bronze medal at the Rio Olympics and 19th overall following a protest in the men’s 50-kilometre race Friday morning.
In the final two kilometres, Dunfee lost stride after Hirooki Arai bumped him during a collision and the Japanese athlete went on to cross the finish line third in a time of three hours 41 minutes 24 seconds, 14 one-hundredths of a second ahead of Dunfee…
After numerous controversial decisions at Rio Olympics, the AIBA has apperently benched seven of their most established referees/judges.
Mik Basi (Gbr), Kheira Sidi Yakoub (Alg), Michael Gallagher (Ire), Mariusz Gorny (Pol), Vladislav Malyshev (Rus), Gerardo Poggi (Arg) and Rakhymzhan Rysbayev (Kaz) were leading the clique that Fightnews dubbed The Magnificent Seven.
The Magnificent Seven were appointed on a full contract basis. They receive a monthly salary of $5000. The 5-stars referees received additional benefits, working around the world in WSB and APB fight nights…