SBD/July 31, 2012/Olympics

LOCOG Puts Additional Tickets On Sale Nightly To Defuse Empty Seat Furor

LOCOG now selling tickets not being used by sports federations
LOCOG announced that “batches of tickets for the next day's events will go on sale every evening in an effort to defuse the row over empty seats,” according to Matthew Taylor of the GUARDIAN. Sporting federations will “meet each evening to agree which blocks of tickets can go back on sale that night.” Tickets could “appear on the London 2012 ticketing website after midnight for sessions starting the next morning.” LOCOG said that by “selling the tickets only online it would allow people across the country to have a chance to purchase seats.” But with “such tight timeframes the system appears to favour people who live close to the venues.” LOCOG yesterday said that it had “sold 600 tickets for gymnastics sessions, 700 for beach volleyball and more than 100 for swimming” (GUARDIAN, 7/31). The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Kortekaas & Stacey note, “While no one is being forced to return tickets, LOCOG is asking federations whether they expect to use all of their allocated tickets for each session each day, and to return any they do not expect to be used.” LOCOG said that it was “doing the best it could to fill the accredited areas" and the amount of accredited seating was 15% less "than previous games” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/31). The AP’s Graham Dunbar notes the empty-seat problem has “lingered beyond the first weekend of competition, taking some shine off Friday's opening ceremony.” U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said, “We can do better,” and added LOCOG needed to “make sure more people get to see more games and also that there are fewer empty seats” (AP, 7/31).

ROLL CALL: In London, O’Connor & Brown write the IOC “confirmed yesterday that 105 of its 109 members had arrived in London with their families.” An IOC spokesperson said, “Just four members out of 109 have absented themselves for good reason. Attendance at that level would be considered very good for a national organisation, let alone an international one.” However, news of their non-appearance "will compound frustration among British sports fans unable to get tickets.” The availability of seats will also “increase the number of schoolchildren and teachers on the park from 150 to 400” as they are accredited and can be “moved into empty seats at short notice.” Troops will also “continue to be used as seat-fillers on breaks from security shifts.” Swiss tennis player Roger Federer said, “Obviously there are many areas that are reserved for athletes or VIPs, so it’s a bit of a different feel to Wimbledon, where you feel every seat is taken at all times. That takes some getting used to.” Although the sponsors and their guests were said to be "turning up to events, the issue for many was the blanket approach to setting aside seats for federation chiefs, athletes and technical officials” (LONDON TIMES, 7/31). French President Francois Hollande, whose country lost out on the ’12 Games, said, “The problem is that there are simply too many corporate seats. It will be up to French organisers to sort out this problem if a bid for a future games is to be successful.” He added, “The London Olympics have been very well organized. I’m not here to be a killjoy or to give lessons to the British” (London TELEGRAPH, 7/31). MARKETING magazine’s Rachel Barnes writes, “Several times this weekend I was accused of being an apologist as I defended sponsors on this issue; but what do sponsors have to apologise for? They have not been gifted these seats, but paid a heavy price tag in commercial deals set by LOCOG and the International Olympic Committee. The idea that sponsors would simply leave masses of valuable seats empty seems self-defeating” (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 7/31).

NOT READY FOR A CLOSE-UP: In Toronto, Joseph Hall wrote LOCOG has tried to "deal with the situation with a simpler solution -- keeping the empty seats out of television camera shots.” IOC VP Craig Reedie said, “They are not huge banks (of empty seats) and we tend to put them, if we can, out of camera range” (TORONTO STAR, 7/30). In a special for the FINANCIAL TIMES, former IOC Marketing & Broadcast Rights Dir Michael Payne writes, “London has done better than most hosts. In Seoul, organisers struggled to fill the stadium even for track and field events. Athens and Beijing had swaths of empty seats early on.” Payne: “The real story is that London is the most popular games of all those I have experienced. The huge crowds for the cycling road race was the highlight so far but events such as handball and the canoe slalom have also seen record attendance.” Empty seats “fill column inches, but they shouldn’t get in the way of the really big story: the British public is loving the games” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/31). In London, Ben Rumsby notes the British Olympic Association today called on the IOC to “completely revamp their ticketing policy for future Games.” BOA Chair Lord Colin Moynihan said, “It's time to stop the blame game and also to recognise that this is such a major and complex issue. Moving forwards, this is an issue that I hope the IOC will take a lead on. This is an opportunity for the IOC to put in place an overall ticketing policy that can be improved at each Games.” He added, “This requires huge investment. ... The IOC have now got to take the lead and make sure the investment is in place for a state-of-the-art ticketing policy” (INDEPENDENT.co.uk, 7/31).

BOUNCING BACK
: A FINANCIAL TIMES editorial states, “Many things have gone much better for the London 2012 Olympic Games than there was reason to fear.” One thing that has disappointed is an "unseemly quantity of empty seats even for highly popular events such as gymnastics and aquatics.” While the empty seats are “distressing,” they “should not be surprising.” LOCOG is now “acting to recycle unused tickets in accredited seats.” The move “seems to be paying appropriate, if overdue, attention to the problem.” It would have been “better if it had prepared measures in advance -- and the scandal would never have got off the ground,” but the actions taken “seem good ones” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/31). In London, Natalie Haynes writes, “Here's hoping LOCOG mans up and starts selling or giving away Olympic Family tickets that go unused within 30 minutes of the starting time: if you can't be bothered to get there on time, even using your fancy Olympic lanes, limos and the rest, you don't deserve a seat” (London INDEPENDENT, 7/31). In N.Y., Andrew Das noted the British media have begun to “focus on the empty seats, charting them by venue or delighting in publishing photos of different events” (NYTIMES.com, 7/30).

FAMILY MATTERS: The GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson noted organizers have "promised to overhaul the system for distributing tickets to friends and families of competitors, after complaints that some had missed their events as a result of queues and confusion." Under a system developed by Ticketmaster, the ticketing partner of London Games organizers, athletes are "obliged to log their request for tickets online, then pick them up at a box office" in the Athletes' Village. However, there have been reports of "long queues at the box office," which is also selling other tickets. There have also been “cases where parents have been told to collect their tickets at the venue -- only to find that they are not there.” LOCOG Dir of Sport Debbie Jevans said that it had "opened a new dedicated queue for the collection of tickets for athletes, which would help solve the problem" (GUARDIAN, 7/30). In L.A., Bill Dwyre writes, “The empty seats are only a sideshow, an early-Games aberration solved when the blue bloods get interested. More serious is the reality that most people couldn’t afford those seats, or many others, even if they were made available.” LOCOG Communications Chair Jackie Brock-Doyle said, “The way people bought the tickets -- the stadiums are jampacked -- means our pricing was correct” (L.A. TIMES, 7/31).
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