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Volume 10 No. 25
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Games Organizers Move To Quell Ticket Anger, Reclaim 3,000 Tickets For Resale

London Games organizers have "attempted to defuse the empty-seat row" by re-claiming 3,000 seats from sporting officials who have failed to turn up to events, according to Booth & Wintour of the London GUARDIAN. LOCOG said that it had "sold the tickets to the public overnight," including 600 for gymnastics, 700 for beach volleyball and more than 100 for swimming. The move comes after TV pictures showed swimmers and gymnasts competing in front of partially full arenas, resulting in "widespread criticism" from ticketless fans. LOCOG spokesperson Jackie Brock Doyle said, "We were able to put back into the pot for sale about 3,000 tickets [Sunday] night, and they have all been sold. We are going to that on a day to day basis." Each night, LOCOG, the IOC and the sporting federations will meet 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. The number of children in Olympic Park "ready to take up empty seats" in venues will be increased from 150 to as many as 400 (GUARDIAN, 7/30). In London, Beard, Blunden & Bryant reported that once seats have been given up, they "cannot be returned to VIPs." Organizers are also planning to "upgrade members of the public to better seats left empty." Tickets for seats in the press section at beach volleyball went on sale Sunday night with "journalists moved to make way for spectators." A LOCOG spokesperson said it was "a challenge" to manage the issue of empty seats. He said, "We are in an absolutely no-win situation. The press have jumped on this but they are culpable within this. It is a challenge and one of the problems we face. It is part of the wider issues we have got with accredited seats not being used" (INDEPENDENT, 7/30). In N.Y., Bryan-Low & Orwall noted that the problem stems from the fact that only about 75% of the 8.8 million tickets for the Games were "sold to the public." About 12% go to national Olympic committees, who then "can sell to customers in their countries." About 8% go to sponsors, rights holders and others. The last 5% go to int'l federations, the IOC and "sellers of various travel packages" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/30).

SAME OLD, SAME OLD: In a London FINANCIAL TIMES opinion piece, Michael Payne, a veteran of 16 Olympics, wrote "the great Olympic empty seat story is a long-established non-story." Payne said he's been part of the "Olympic family" being blamed for the unfilled seats and writes: "Imagine you are among the legion of assorted administrators and coaches with each of the competing nations. You want to see as many members of your team in action as possible. So, you flit from venue to venue, often covering seven or eight events in a single evening. The reality is that organisers have to set aside seats – although less than 2% of the total – for these floating spectators. Imagine the embarrassment if Michelle Obama arrives to watch an American compete and finds all the seats taken. ... London has done better than most hosts" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/30).

OFFICIALS SCRAMBLE: In London, Matthew Beard reported that British PM David Cameron said LOCOG was doing "a good job" of getting on top of the problem of empty seats. Cultural Secretary Jeremy Hunt was "looking at whether a 30-minute rule could be imposed on empty seats before they are put up for resale to the public." Hunt said, "What we're saying to the IOC and to the international sports federations is if you're not going to use them, could we have as many possible back because of course we've got lots of members of the public who would dearly love to go." He continued: "We want to be completely upfront with the public. This is a negotiation. We don't have a right to demand these back. In fact, contractually these seats do belong to the international sports federations and to the IOC, but we got 3,000 back last night, including 600 for the gymnastics" (EVENING STANDARD, 7/30).

PARENTS DENIED TICKETS: In London, Owen Gibson noted that 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 the ticketing partner of London Games organisers, Ticketmaster, 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. London Olympic and Paralympic Games Sports Dir 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). Also in London, Magnay & Prince noted that the parents and friends ticket program entitles every athlete "to buy two tickets for each session in which they compete." But Ticketmaster has "not been able to update in time for each final -- detaling which athletes are eligible to puchase the tickets." Then the distribution of the tickets has, in the words of one team official, become ''a complete nightmare'' (TELEGRAPH, 7/30).

SEATS FAIL: In London, dozens of actual Olympic seats have been replaced after "complaints that one had failed during a 'Mexican wave' at the hockey venue" on Sunday. There was also a report of "problems with another" during the archery at Lord’s. Checks were carried out on all 200,000 seats installed by a contractor at Olympic venues after the discovery of a problem (LONDON TIMES, 7/30). In Auckland, Troy Rawhiti-Forbes noted that the empty seats have "infuriated members of the public and performing athletes alike (NEW ZEALAND HERALD, 7/30).