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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 January, 2004, 11:43 GMT
Irish and GB in Olympic row
Prime Minister Tony Blair has lent his full backing to London's bid
Prime Minister Tony Blair has lent his full backing to London's bid
London's 2012 Olympic bid could cause a bitter turf battle between the British Olympic Association and the Olympic Council of Ireland.

The row is being caused by the BOA's officially laying claim to Northern Ireland athletes for the Olympics.

According to the International Olympic Committee's existing charter, the Olympic Council of Ireland represents the whole island of Ireland.

However, Northern Ireland athletes have always been able to compete for GB.

But now the BOA has included Northern Ireland in its new Olympic contract to be signed for the 2004 Athens Games.

The move has angered Irish officials and their concerns have been made clear in a letter sent from OCI general secretary Dermot Sherlock to his BOA counterpart Simon Clegg.

In the letter, Sherlock makes it clear the attempt at a change of status causes serious problems for the OCI.

We cannot get anyone from the BOA to talk about this
Irish Olympic Council official Pat Hickey

"There seems to be something underhand here," said Hickey, who is also secretary general of the European Olympic Committees.

"I am shocked and saddened by this. I hope this does not jeopardise any Irish athletes from participating in Athens," he added.

Hickey complained that the BOA had so far refused to discuss the changes.

"We cannot get anyone from the BOA to talk about this.

"It is always 'we will get back to you' when we raise the issue but they never do. We only found out by accident about these changes to the BOA contract," he explained.

Olympic sources have confirmed that the BOA is also in the process of attempting to change their charter with the IOC to include the words Northern Ireland alongside England, Scotland and Wales.

One recent attempt to change the BOA charter with the IOC has already been rejected according to sources within IOC headquarters in Lausanne.

I am at a loss to understand why this subject is now being raised
Pat Hickey

There was no immediate comment available from either the BOA or the London 2012 Olympic bid team.

It was former Irish IOC member and IOC president Lord Killanin who ensured that the OCI was responsible for all 32 counties on the island.

The OCI charter giving it full responsibility for all of Ireland was agreed by former IOC president Avery Brundage and then re-enforced by Killanin when he became president.

Hickey stressed that relations between the BOA and OCI have always been very cordial in the past.

"We have always worked together in good faith and good trust, even in the darkest days of the troubles in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I am at a loss to understand why this subject is now being raised."

Around 20 percent of the Irish Olympic team tends to be made up from athletes from Northern Ireland.

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