Ireland ‘embarrassed’ by illegal Olympic ticket-selling claim

Ireland's flag bearer Paddy Barnes leads the team into the Maracana stadium during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony
Ireland's flag bearer Paddy Barnes leads the team into the Maracana stadium during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony

An alleged illegal Olympics ticket-selling operation is “embarrassing” for Ireland, the country’s sports minister has said.

Shane Ross said he is also considering a government inquiry into the controversy over the selling of tickets allocated to the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) for the games in Rio de Janeiro.

“What’s happened there is a great shame,” he told a press briefing in Dublin.

“We are going to leave it to the authorities at the moment to carry out their own inquiry.”

The minister said his office has demanded answers from the Olympic Council of Ireland about the issue and said he expects the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to launch its own investigation.

“I think it’s very, very regrettable what’s happening and we are monitoring it very closely indeed,” he said.

Mr Ross added: “I think it’s very important that the the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) are as accountable as anybody else for what’s going on.”

The minister also expressed his disappointment at Irish boxer Michael O’Reilly’s premature return home from Rio after failing a doping test.

“I think both things are embarrassing for Ireland,” he added.

“But I think let’s forget about it now for the moment and go full speed ahead and let’s look forward to a medal being won next week.”

Opposition politicians have called for a government inquiry into how Irish-allocated tickets are at the centre of controversy at the Games.

Brazilian police said Irishman Kevin Mallon and Brazilian interpreter Barbara Carnieri were arrested in Rio on Friday on suspicion of illegally reselling tickets for the opening ceremony at inflated prices.

A statement issued by the police on Monday said it had seized more than 1,000 tickets.

Mr Mallon works for THG, a London-based international ticket reseller and corporate hospitality firm, part of Ipswich Town Football Club owner Marcus Evans’s group of companies.

The company said it was aware Mr Mallon has been questioned by Brazilian authorities.

“Whilst we are fully investigating the matter with the Brazilian authorities and with our local lawyers, THG entirely refute any suggestion that they or he have acted in anyway unlawfully,” a company spokesman said.

“Based on a preliminary review of the facts, we understand Mr Mallon has not breached any local laws or International Olympic Committee rules.”

Mr Ross said the case involved tickets allocated to other countries and not just Ireland.

The OCI said it has no knowledge of either of the individuals arrested and has launched “an immediate investigation” with its authorised ticket reseller, Pro10.