|Patrick Hickey - President, European Olympic Committees|
|Profile of the week|
Friday, 11 January 2013 16:21
Patrick Hickey is the President of the European Olympic Committees. He is also the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI), a position he has held since 1988.
In 2006, Pat was elected President of the European Olympic Committees, where he was influential in pushing through plans to stage the first ever European Games. During the same year, he began assuming responsibility as Vice President of World Olympic Committees (ANOC) until his promotion to Senior Vice President in 2012.
In 1995, Pat became a Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and an Executive Board Member in 2012.
In 1979, he was elected as President of the Irish Judo Association. During his decade long reign, he was made Irish Team Manager for the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, in 1984. His career in the world of Judo administration also includes a spell as General Treasurer of the European Judo Union (1990).
Prior to his career in sports administration, the patriotic Irishman participated in various sports including soccer, golf, squash and tennis, but particularly excelled in Judo, where he became national champion and represented his country on the international stage.
Born in Dublin, Pat is married and has four children.
Could you explain to our readership about the responsibilities of the Olympic Council of Ireland?
We are the responsible body within our territory for conducting the affairs of the Olympic Movement and as such, we are affiliated to European Olympic Committees and the International Olympic Committee, who are the overall body for the conduction of the Olympic Movement. That’s how we operate and our role here in Ireland is to prepare and train to enter a team in the Olympic Games -winter and summer- every two years.
How do you set about achieving your goals?
The way we’re structured here is we have the 28 Olympic federations affiliated to the OCI and we deal with them on a regular basis; we evaluate their needs and we try to help them as much as we can. They deal also with government agencies and we try to coordinate the activities so that we’re playing as one team. The whole idea is to help the athletes as much as we can in their preparation and training for the Games.
What does the role mean to you, on a personal level?
I’m very passionate. Ireland, in general, is a sports mad nation and the country gets fired up greatly at Olympic time in particular, they take great pride in the Irish team because we see it as flying the flag on the international stage.
You’ve been President of the OCI since 1989, how has the OCI evolved during your time?
The OCI has evolved greatly in the role of its independence. It used to be more or less influenced by government policy and invariably it hasn’t got the funds to show a strong independent stance, but since that period we set about making it self-sufficient in funding and finance which is primarily raised from sponsorship, etc, so that we can always keep an independent role.
We had a very bad experience here in that my predecessor [Desmond O'Sullivan] during the boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980, the government pulled the plug on our finance and tried to block participation of the Olympic team because of siding with the American government and Jimmy Carter’s boycott policy. My predecessor at the time resisted that very strongly, but to send the team, people had to go out on the street with collection boxes because the government pulled the plug. We decided we would never allow that to happen again so we set out to build up strong structures independent financially and that’s what we have done.
In economic difficulties, how important is sport in boosting business, participation and morale?
It’s hugely important for morale, not just Olympic sport but our own football team qualified for the European Championships last June in Poland and while we didn’t achieve any results there, the lift it gave the nation was just immense.
By the same token we suffer from the economic downturn because naturally people say, “Why put money into sport when it should be put into hospitals?” So, we mounted a PR campaign in that area to balance the situation as well.
Boxing has proven a goldmine for you in the Olympics. Do you allocate more funds to sports that have proven to be successful?
In general, we try to identify the sports that will have medal success but funnily enough it doesn’t work that way in boxing. Boxing here has a huge network of ordinary clubs, with great volunteers locally, great coaches and we seem to have pipeline of very strong boxers coming through, so we’re very fortunate. We have set up a very strong elite boxing training system, both for males and females, and we have seen the results of that time and time again at the Olympics.
What role do athletes, like Katie Taylor, have in inspiring the next generation’?
Katie’s an outstanding athlete, not only in boxing but she also has 19 caps as a striker for Ireland’s national soccer team. Katie and the other boxers are great influences on the young members of the clubs, they came from these clubs and they haven’t forget their grassroots and they give back to the clubs around the country because they got to the top, they like to go back and encourage the young kids. Since, she won the gold medal the increase in female boxing here has been phenomenal with young girls wishing to join the local clubs, etc and she in particular is a good role model for the youth of Ireland.