© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Powerful Irish Olympic Official Is Arrested In Rio Over Ticket Scandal

Patrick Hickey (left) was arrested in Rio on Wednesday; he's seen here with IOC President Thomas Bach at meetings held last October.
Larry French
Getty Images for ANOC
Patrick Hickey (left) was arrested in Rio on Wednesday; he's seen here with IOC President Thomas Bach at meetings held last October.

Police in Rio de Janeiro served Patrick Joseph Hickey, the president of Ireland's Olympic Committee, with arrest and search warrants Wednesday morning, in an embarrassing development in a scandal over accusations that he was involved in the scalping of some 1,000 tickets to Summer Olympics events.

Hours after he was taken into custody, Hickey, who serves on the International Olympic Committee's 15-member executive board, stepped down from all Olympic roles, in what was called a temporary move.

Hickey, 71, was taken to a hospital shortly after 7 a.m. this morning because he complained of not feeling well shortly after being confronted by police, Mark Adams, the IOC's director of communications, said.

Hickey has been a member of the 98-member International Olympic Committee since 1995. In addition to his role leading Ireland's Olympic Committee, he's the president of the European Olympic Committees group and the vice president of the Association of National Olympic Committees.

Update at 1:34 p.m. ET: Hickey Steps Aside, For Now

Citing the arrest warrant executed against its president his morning, the Olympic Council of Ireland says Hickey "has taken the decision to step aside temporarily as President of the OCI and all other Olympic functions ... until this matter is fully resolved."

Our original post continues:

The Irish Olympic chief's arrest was captured on video, with footage that's now been released in Brazil showing officers speaking to him at the door of his hotel room — and Hickey, who appears to be naked, walking away to put on a robe.

Adams refused to say how the IOC views the executive's arrest, other than to say that Hickey is entitled to be seen as innocent until proven guilty.

"Let's wait to see what charges are even made," Adams said.

He went on to say that the matter is being investigated by the Irish Olympic Committee and doesn't directly involve the international Olympic body.

"We follow the system of justice here," Adams said. "There aren't even any facts yet."

Hickey's arrest is the latest and most serious development in an inquiry into reports that 1,000 tickets to Rio's Summer Olympics wound up in the hands of ticket scalpers.

Irish citizen Kevin James Mallon, who's an executive at THG — a company that until recently had been the official ticket reseller for the Irish Olympic Committee — is being held without bail in Brazil after he was arrested around the start of the games on Aug. 5, over charges of reselling tickets at steep markups.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.