President of the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) Pat Hickey has tipped Ireland’s eventers as possible medal candidates at the Rio Olympics which he said could be a “great fiesta” despite the problems being experienced ahead of the August start date.

“Rio will be a difficult Games and there’s no point in hiding that,” Mr. Hickey said this morning in an interview with RTE radio’s Sean O’Rourke. “The country has been very unfortunate. Their economic situation is extremely difficult. Their political situation seems to be a mess.”

However he said that despite the difficulties he expected the Games to be successful once competition gets underway. “The Brazilian people have a passion for sport like the Irish. I think that they will all join in a carnival atmosphere. When the whistle goes for the first event it’ll be a great fiesta.”

Mr. Hickey,  who is also President of the European Olympic Committees (EOC) and a board member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that the Zeka virus was not much of an issue much amongst the Olympic community, but he fully supported the decision of anyone who decided not to travel over fears of the virus.

Asked by Sean O’Rourke about the Ireland’s medal prospects, Mr. Hickey predictably referred to boxing, but then immediately mentioned three-day eventing. “Our boxers are top class guys and girls and we’re always going to get medals there. We could do well in the three-day eventing in equestrian. You’d never know what could happen in triathlon. Golf could produce a medal – we have two great females and two great males”, he said.

“You need a bit of luck always at the Olympics and with a bit of Irish luck we’ll come home with an even better haul than we had in London.”

Mr Hickey also stated that while he would be stepping down as President of the OCI after Rio, he would remain in his European and international Olympic roles. He will be succeeded as President of the OCI by Willie O’Brien. (Mike Dunne)