Olympic Officials Caught Selling Tickets On Black Market
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 SUNDAY 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 £80,000 ($125,400). He "promised to falsify information" from 400 Serbian passports to "conceal the illicit deal" from the London organisers. 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." They agreed to sell them "to the fake Middle Eastern tout" for up to £6,000 ($9,400) each. Cartan Tours VP Greg Harney, organiser of N.Y. city’s failed bid for the 2012 Games, had "encouraged the reporters" to set up a fake address in one of the 40 countries whose tickets he controls "to conceal an illicit foreign sale." In another incident that The Times has on video, Gen Dir of Serbia’s Big Blue ticket agency Ivan Radojevic told the undercover 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” (SUNDAY TIMES, 6/17). Also in London, Cass Jones reported that 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 organisation will deal with those involved in an appropriate manner. The NOCs are autonomous organisations, but if any of the cases are confirmed the IOC will not hesitate to impose the strongest sanctions" (GUARDIAN, 6/16). 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 £66,000 ($103,000) (THE TIMES OF ISRAEL, 6/17).
GETTING TICKETS BACK: The LONDON TIMES' Ashling O'Connor reported London Olympics organisers "will try to reclaim thousands of tickets" that were on sale on the black market. Technically, the IOC can "recall all tickets sold by NOCs or resellers guilty of
misappropriating them." They "will not do this, as it would punish people
who have purchased tickets legitimately," but LOCOG could "recall all
unsold tickets" and return them to the British sales system (LONDON TIMES, 6/18).
ALLEGATIONS DENIED: The TELEGRAPH's Jacquelin Magnay reported that it was alleged Greek NOC President Spyros Caprolos "claimed he successfully lobbied" LOCOG Chair Sebastian Coe to give Greece "a fresh batch of premium tickets to the Games on the pretext that demand in the country had outstripped expectations." In reality, he is alleged to have said demand was "very low," and few tickets have been sold. Caprolos said, "The leverage is because we are telling them that some Greeks or some of our sponsors would like to come and watch the Games. We don't tell them how these tickets will be sold and we'll be making a profit." In a statement, LOCOG said, "With regard to 'boasts' by the Greek Olympic Committee (HOC) that discussions on tickets took place with Sebastian Coe we can confirm this is untrue" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/17). In N.Y., Peter-Joseph Hegarty reported that 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, 6/17). The AP reported that Coe had told the HOC that tickets "were allocated in accordance with IOC ticketing policy." LOCOG said, "There was no further contact -- either formal or informal -- on this subject." Capralos was not immediately available for comment. An HOC official "denied that anything untoward had taken place" (AP, 6/17). In London, Vince Soodin wrote that the IOC will also consider "a complete shake-up of how Olympic tickets are distributed among member countries" (THE SUN, 6/17). In Sydney, Glenda Korporaal reported that Australian Olympic Committee spokesperson Mike Tancred said that none of its members were involved in the allegations. Tancred said that Co Sport, which is the authorised ticket reseller for Australia, was not involved in the allegations (THE AUSTRALIAN, 6/18).
IMAGE TAINTED: Meanwhile, the London GUARDIAN's Owen Gibson wrote that "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). Also in London, the TELEGRAPH's Magnay opined that NOCs "often hold back significant swathes of tickets for their own use, to sell to sponsors, provide to athletes families or, in some cases, to earn some cash under the table by selling on to others at highly inflated prices." They can do so because the number of tickets made available to each national Olympic committee "is never made public." In previous years, some authorised ticket resellers who have the rights to sell tickets in multiple countries "have boasted of being able to surreptitiously swap tickets between countries." So, countries with a strong interest in one sport can get tickets allocated to another country. NOCs also do not release the number of tickets the hospitality providers have purchased. If they did, "buyers in each country would have a fairer idea of the ticket process" (TELEGRAPH, 6/17). THE AUSTRALIAN's Korporaal reported that with more than 200 NOCs, it is "not surprising that the standard of ethics in the broader Olympic family varies." 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)