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SBD Global/June 19, 2012/Olympics

Olympic Ticket Scandal Forces IOC To Suspend Sochi 2014 Ticket Sales

Olympic officials have been accused of selling Olympic tickets on the black market.
The IOC will "suspend the sales process" for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games while it investigates allegations that Olympic officials and agents from 54 countries offered London 2012 tickets on the black market, according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. The Sunday Times alleged that 27 agents representing 54 countries were prepared to sell thousands of tickets for up to £6,000 ($9,400) each. The Times "is expected to hand its dossier of evidence to the IOC this week." The investigation is expected "to lead to a shake-up of the way Olympic tickets are allocated ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympics" (GUARDIAN, 6/18).

OFFICIALS DENY INVOLVEMENT: Meanwhile, the LONDON TIMES' Ashling O'Connor reported that Greek and Serbian Olympic officials "deny they were involved in selling tickets to the London Games on the black market." The Greek Olympic Committee (HOC) said the story was “untrue and misleading” and that HOC President Spyros Capralos’ comments, which were filmed using a hidden camera, were presented “in a misleading way” and were “fragmentary.” Serbia Olympic Committee General Secretary Djordje Visacki also denies wrongdoing. He said National Olympic Committees are not in charge of the tickets “because the distribution of all tickets is entirely in the hands of an official distributor who has direct contract with the organizers of the Olympic Games." LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe said, “I am depressed given the number of warnings [to NOCs]. I told them not to [tout]. I am mildly surprised that anyone was prepared to take a punt on that.” The inquiry began Friday night, and IOC President Jacques Rogge is said to be "furious and wants to conclude" it before the Games begin, an "ambitious target given the tight timescale." It is understood that there are up to 15 individual cases to answer, "of which about five are very serious" (LONDON TIMES, 6/18). In London, Louise Eccles reported that "two members of the IOC itself are being investigated over the matter." A source at the IOC said they were "seriously concerned" about the allegations and would now consider a complete overhaul of the system, which allowed 204 participating nations to assign their own ticketing agents, almost unchecked (DAILY MAIL, 6/18). In Valletta, Christian Peregin noted Malta Olympic Committee President Lino Farrugia Sacco denied any claims of wrongdoing and said: "We would never go against the rules of the International Olympic Committee. It's not worth it." Farrugia Sacco was secretly filmed, along with MOC General Secretary Joseph Cassar. In the footage, posted on The Times' website, the two "appear to be explaining how the rights on Malta's allocated tickets" for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games could be bought. Cassar explained how the tickets could be marketed and sold within "subtle" bundle package deals at a mark-up (TIMES OF MALTA, 6/18).

SOMEONE NEEDS TO PAY: An IOC senior executive board member Dennis Oswald said that officials who sold London 2012 tickets on the black market "should be banned from the Olympic movement." Oswald added, "If you know you are breaking rules and still do it, it is unacceptable." Oswald, who is also a former Olympic rower, said people who were aware they were breaking rules "should no longer belong to the Olympic movement" (BBC, 6/18). Senior politician and member of the Olympic Board, which helps oversee London 2012, Menzies Campbell has called for "offending countries to lose future allocations of tickets." Campbell said, "The sanctions should be not just that the tickets get cancelled for this Olympic Games but that tickets are not awarded on future occasions" (SCOTSMAN, 6/18).
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