Olympics minister says ticket demands unreasonable

Posted Feb. 17, 2012, at 8:07 p.m.

LONDON — People still hoping to get tickets for the London Olympics won’t get another shot at buying them until April.

Word on the next offering came on the same day Britain’s Olympics minister rejected demands for a full accounting of sales. Hugh Robertson said Friday it is not the right time for Olympics organizers to provide details about a ticketing process that has been dogged by problems.

Robertson spoke after a London watchdog group insisted that organizers clearly show how sales break down between expensive and affordable tickets. Critics have sought the data to see if a disproportionate number of tickets have been sold at higher prices, shutting out those who couldn’t pay for the most popular events.

“I think it’s unreasonable to ask,” Robertson said at the Track World Cup cycling event at the Olympic Velodrome. “This is the middle of a very big, complicated ticketing operation — they’re trying to market tickets for 26 simultaneous world championships in one day. It’s an operation that has never, ever been done before.”

London Olympics organizers said they would respond to the assembly’s request when ticket sales are done.

“We will do that when we’ve sold the other 4 million tickets,” organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe said in Los Angeles, where he attended the IOC Conference on Women and Sport. “I will not compromise that protocol by starting to go piecemeal into a price point here, a session there.”

It has not been a good week for Olympic organizers. A report from the London Assembly said there was too much secrecy surrounding the allocation of Olympics tickets. The 25-member body, which acts as a check on London Mayor Boris Johnson, said the British public — which is putting up $14.6 billion for the event — deserves to know whether citizens ever had a shot at an affordable ticket.

Coe said two-thirds of the tickets are being sold for less than 50 pounds ($79). He said his goal is to have full venues with people in attendance who genuinely want to see the events.

“My challenge is to sell another four million tickets, get them into the hands of the people we want to get them into,” Coe said.

“We have always targeted those groups who have been unsuccessful at every stage of the process. There’s a really good reasonable chance that somewhere around two-thirds of those people that started out in that process will get tickets.”

The organizing committee, known as LOCOG, is a private entity and has refused to provide information for commercial reasons. But the assembly said other Olympic committees — notably that of Sydney — were able to hand over the data sooner and that London should, too.

Dee Doocey, the chair of the assembly committee that examined the ticketing process, told the BBC on Thursday that it was time for the committee to come clean.

“I suspect that there’s probably not enough tickets at affordable prices available to the public as we’ve been led to believe,” she said.

London’s Olympic ticketing process has been slowed by computer problems and huge demand. A complicated lottery system in which people blindly registered for tickets and handed over credit card details before they knew what — if any — tickets they were getting added to public unease.

“I never wanted to be in a position where I was selling tickets for seats that weren’t available,” Coe said.

In the first round, about 22 million requests came in for the 6.6 million tickets, which range in price from more than $31 to more than $3,150. Further rounds were blighted by computer problems, and plans for future ticket sales have failed to stem public grumbling. Ticket allocations for sponsors are likely to come under even greater scrutiny, mostly because of the impression that the wealthy and connected get special treatment.

There is still confusion about the next ticket offering, expected in April. New figures indicate about 4 million tickets are still unsold, including many for Paralympic events and soccer matches.

“I don’t want to sound cavalier or remotely unrecognizable of the fact that, yeah, there is disappointment out there about tickets,” Coe said. “I can’t see any other way of doing it.”

More criticism is certain to follow comments by committee chief executive officer Paul Deighton, who told the BBC that people may have to pay at the prime vantage point of the Olympic cycle road race. The assumption had been that spectators lining the road would be able to do so for free — even at the viewing point at Box Hill, Surrey.

The race includes a 10-mile circuit around the viewing point where spectators would be able to see riders multiple times. The race finishes at the Mall in London. Deighton told the BBC it would be “perfectly appropriate … to consider charging for the tickets.”

“Box Hill is a challenging environment because it’s highly protected,” he said. “It’s not the easiest place to watch things from or to control big crowds. It’s a prime viewing slot, the men’s race goes round it nine times; it’s better, frankly, than being at the start and finish in the Mall.”

The Olympics start July 27 and end Aug. 12.

SEE COMMENTS →

View stories by school

ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business
ADVERTISEMENT | Grow your business

Similar Articles

More in Sports