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Ireland’s Olympic officials ‘surprised’ at Hickey invite to Euro Games

Irish Olympic officials have questioned the decision to invite Patrick Hickey, the disgraced former president of the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI), to the European Games in Minsk this month.

The former OFI president of 29 years has been invited to attend Minsk 2019, which is scheduled to take place from June 21 to 30, as a guest.

Hickey held the top position at the European Olympic Committees (EOC) for 10 years, during which time he lead the creation of the European Games, which were first held in 2015 in Baku, Azerbaijan. He was also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Sarah Keane, the current president of the OFI who succeeded Hickey, expressed her surprise at the EOC announcement, along with chief executive Peter Sherrard.

Hickey self-suspended himself from all his roles after he was arrested on ticket scalping charges related to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The former president denies any wrongdoing, but is up against charges including theft, tax evasion, money-laundering and criminal association after police seized hundreds of tickets.

Keane and OFI general secretary Sarah O’Shea met with EOC officials to discuss the issue.

Keane said, according to the Irish Examiner newspaper: “We expressed our surprise and they were open and honest about it. He has assured me this is standard practice in terms of inviting former presidents to events.”

In April, the OFI named Elämys Group as its authorised ticket seller (ATR) for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games following the ticketing scandal that followed Rio 2016.

Keane said the announcement is a “major milestone” for the governing body given the context of the 2016 Rio scandal that brought a dramatic end to its former deal with British firm THG.