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SBD Global/January 21, 2013/Olympics

British Government Spent $1.9M In Taxpayer Money On Olympic Tickets

The British government spent nearly £1.2M ($1.9M) of taxpayers' money on tickets for last summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games, so "ministers and civil servants could watch for free," according to Lucy Crossley of the London DAILY MAIL. Coalition ministers "were given access to events" including athletics, beach volleyball, cycling, diving and boxing. In total, the government purchased 8,641 tickets for the London Games, at a cost of nearly £1.2M, with 60 seats going to coalition ministers. Former Treasury Minister James Sassoon "received the most expensive ticket among his colleagues" when he was handed a £725 ($1,150) seat at the athletics. Sassoon and Scottish Secretary Michael Moore were also given £1,500 ($2,380) tickets for the Closing Ceremony. Of the 8,641 tickets purchased, around 4,000 costing £916,000 ($1.5M) were "paid for and distributed by central Government." Of the remaining tickets, 2,381 were "bought by staff who had worked long-term on the Games or Ambassadors" (DAILY MAIL, 1/19). SKY reported the list "does not include free tickets" given to senior figures by LOCOG or visits paid for by companies and sponsors. Another £349,153 ($553,000) was spent on government-hosted receptions before the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Olympics and Paralympics (SKY, 1/19). The BBC reported a spokesperson from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that they "would not go into details about why one particular minister was given tickets to a particular event or why the amount of money spent on tickets had gone up" since November '11. The spokesperson said, "We were clear that we wanted to make the most of hosting the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics as a driver for growth, and decided that it was right to invest in order to maximize the economic benefits for the country" (BBC, 1/19).

BURYING THE BAD NEWS: In London, Hope & Dominiczak reported ministers have been accused of trying to "bury bad news" during the Algerian hostage crisis by "releasing the details of who received free Olympic tickets." The overall amount spent -- £1.17M ($1.86M) -- was far more than the £750,000 ($1.2M), which had previously been forecast by Sports Minister Hugh Robertson. Labour MP John Mann compared the decision to release the information during the Algerian hostage crisis with an attempt by a former adviser to Labour Cabinet Minister Stephen Byers to “bury bad news” during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Mann said: "People will be very cynical about the government doing this now when everyone is rightly concentrating on what is happening in Algeria. It is yet another attempt by successive Governments to bury bad news" (TELEGRAPH, 1/18).
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Olympics, United Kingdom

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