SBD/June 18, 2012/Olympics

Olympic Officials Caught Selling Tickets On Black Market

Olympic tickets were being sold on the black market for up to 10 times face value
Olympic officials and agents "have been caught selling thousands of top tickets to the London Games on the black market for up to 10 times their face value," according to a two-month undercover investigation by Calvert & Blake of the LONDON TIMES. The investigation found "widespread corruption among officials and agents controlling the tickets" for at least 54 countries. The IOC called "an emergency meeting of its executive board and launched an investigation" on Friday after learning of the news. Thousands of the "best seats at the top events" were up for sale after being "siphoned off from official supplies" held by overseas National Olympic Committees. The NOCs are "forbidden to sell their tickets abroad or to anyone who plans to resell them." However, undercover reporters "posing as envoys of a Middle Eastern ticket tout" found 27 officials and agents "who were willing to do business." They included the official ticket agent for Serbia, who offered about 1,500 tickets to events including the opening and closing ceremonies for $125,400 (all figures U.S.). He "promised to falsify information" from 400 Serbian passports to "conceal the illicit deal" from the London organizers. China’s official ticket agency, which had used a U.K. front company to buy dozens of "the best seats" in the stadiums to "top events meant for the British public," agreed to sell them "to the fake Middle Eastern tout" for up to $9,400 each. The London Times also videotaped Serbia Big Blue ticket agency General Dir Ivan Radojevic telling reporters, “You know this is not legal to do. Officially, I’m telling honestly, this is not according to rules. ... But, we invest too much money and I don’t care” (LONDON TIMES, 6/17). In Jerusalem, Joshua Davidovich reported that Issta Sport boss Yoav Bruck, the sole authorized ticket seller for Olympic events for Israel and Cyprus, "was caught trying to sell journalists 525 tickets" for $103,000 (TIMES OF ISRAEL, 6/17).

IOC RESPONDS: In London, Cass Jones reported the IOC moved "quickly" to deal with the allegations. The IOC said, "We take these allegations very seriously and have immediately taken the first steps to investigate. Should any irregularities be proven, the organization will deal with those involved in an appropriate manner" (GUARDIAN, 6/16). In London, Ashling O'Connor notes IOC Coordination Commission Chair Denis Oswald yesterday participated in an "emergency" meeting via conference call and said of anyone found guilty, "These people should no longer belong to the Olympic movement" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/17). Also in London, Paul Kelso noted the IOC is expected to appoint an "independent auditor to review its ticketing arrangements" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/17). LOCOG said that it would support the IOC investigation. LOCOG said, "None of the tickets in question came from the allocation to the British public" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/17). London Olympic execs "will try to reclaim thousands of tickets" that were for sale on the black market. Technically, the IOC can "recall all tickets sold by NOCs or resellers guilty of misappropriating them." But the IOC "will not do this, as it would punish people who have purchased tickets legitimately." However, LOCOG could "recall all unsold tickets" and return them to the British sales system (LONDON TIMES, 6/18).

IMAGE TAINTED: In London, Owen Gibson wrote the "new wave of revelations threatens to further test public goodwill towards the ticketing process." There have been "consistent complaints" about the allocation of tickets and the "fairness of the system used to sell them," particularly for major events such as the Opening Ceremony and the 100-meter final (GUARDIAN, 6/17). THE AUSTRALIAN's Glenda Korporaal noted the latest revelations "are a warning" to the IOC that it needs to be "continually vigilant in enforcing its standards to both its members and to the broader Olympic family," which takes in the 200-plus NOCs and the summer and winter Olympic sports. IOC President Jacques Rogge had "hoped to go out as IOC president on a high note" after a successful London Games. That "may still occur," but now he will also make it his mission to "leave the Olympic movement with some further reforms that appear to be needed to prevent damage to the Olympic brand" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 6/18).

SUDDEN IMPACT: The GUARDIAN's Gibson writes, "Of all the negative stories ... Sunday's was the most predictable." However, it is "also potentially among the most damaging." For the IOC, "which had spent much of the past decade ridding itself of the stain of the Salt Lake City scandal, and for London 2012 organisers, battling public cynicism about ticketing, cronyism and corporate might, it could not have come at a worse time." Rogge "had hoped to leave behind an organisation in rude financial health and with a restored reputation for probity and transparency." The immediate reaction of the IOC and LOCOG to this "latest controversy will do much to inform the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of the public attitude to the Olympic Games -- in London, in the UK and beyond" (GUARDIAN, 6/18).
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