After months of anticipation, the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) today launched its own Olympic ticket resale site, reversing its initial hard line stance against the secondary ticket market but still retaining tight control over the process.

Calling it a “fan-to-fan marketplace initiative,” VANOC noted that this new site will not only assist the committee in filling the most seats possible for each event, but will also provide fans the confidence that the tickets they purchase through this site are valid.

“We know that well over 90 per cent of Canadian ticket account holders plan to use all their tickets for the Games but a secondary market will exist where people will want to buy, sell and donate tickets,” Caley Denton, VANOC’s vice president for ticketing and consumer marketing, said in a statement. “The fan-to-fan marketplace will be the safest and most secure way for Games’ fans in Canada and worldwide to purchase Vancouver 2010 tickets from fellow fans in Canada as we guarantee the tickets purchased through our fan-to-fan marketplace have valid bar codes and are legitimate.”

The site is operated jointly by VANOC and, its ticketing partner for the 2010 Olympic games. The site is open for selling only to Canadians who have purchased their tickets through the VANOC ticket site, but it allows international customers to view and purchase these resale tickets.

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In order to use the site, ticket holders sign into their existing Vancouver 2010 ticketing account and click on “sell my tickets.” Ticket holders set their own asking price, with no ceiling set on the price itself or number of tickets they may sell. Both sellers and buyers pay a 10 percent service fee on each transaction. These funds will offset the costs of the resale program, costs that were not included in the original budget for the Games and must be recovered. VANOC does not expect to make a profit from these fees, citing their significant costs to set up and run the program.

Sellers may adjust their selling price or may remove their tickets from the site at any time. Buyers will find resale tickets displayed along with all other tickets available for the games on the VANOC site. All resale transactions occur on a first come, first served basis, with Visa the only credit card accepted at the site. If an event ticket remains for sale within 24 hours of the event’s start, the tickets will be removed from sale and placed back into the seller’s possession.

Ticket resale for the Olympics has been an issue for the past couple of years, partly due to problems some fans experienced with the Beijing Olympics in the summer of 2008. The Vancouver Games initially sought to squash the secondary ticket market, even suing and later settling with at least one Canadian ticket broker, but reversed course when it realized it could help fill seats and generate additional revenue.

In a teleconference today to announce the launch, Denton expressed confidence and enthusiasm for the new site. “There has been lots of anticipation of the market place, and we’re excited to be able to launch it, providing safe and secure ticket as well as having full venues at games time.

“The message to the consumer is simple. If someone’s selling tickets outside of our Web site, people need to ask themselves why are they doing that and [question if that is a valid ticket]. We expect fairly high prices to start, as people test the market. Tickets will go quickly on the site, so people who are interested in a particular event should go fairly often.”

In addition to news of the resale site today, the Organizing Committee expressed satisfaction with the number of seats it has been able to make available to the public. “We set a target to have 70 percent of tickets available [to the public], with a minimum of 30 percent available to the public for each session,” noted Dave Cobb, deputy CEO, in today’s teleconference. “We expect to exceed those targets and have a minimum of 40 percent high demand tickets for each session. We think that’s a result of being very careful [with our review of all orders]…and making sure they are valid orders. That resulted in a significant reduction of tickets and provided 80,000 tickets more than we started with.” The Committee expects that 75 percent of all seats will end up being available for public sale.

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VANOC also announced some other initiatives today, including the option for fans unable to use their seats to donate their tickets to charities in the Vancouver area through the Celebrate 2010 program. Per the committee’s news release: “Ticket recipients will include children and families, Aboriginal peoples, and residents of Vancouver’s inner-city neighbourhoods.”

In today’s teleconference, Denton noted that VANOC will provide 50,000 tickets to those who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to the games. Ticket holders can make their donation at VANOC’s main ticketing site. This option is fee-free, but fans won’t receive tax receipts for their donations.

The Organizing Committee is making available some valuable seats through auction. The seats are located in places such as behind the judges at the figure skating gala and behind the benches at the ice hockey semifinals, as well as some spots at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Auctions for these seats start at a bit higher than the ticket’s face value, and each auction is live for three days. Proceeds fund the operation of the Games. Interested buyers can find these auctions at the main VANOC ticketing site as well.

The Committee noted in their release and teleconference that, in anticipation of increased traffic expected at their ticket site and due to some clarification on seating in venues, new blocks of tickets for primary sale have been released today. Additional blocks of tickets will continue to be released until the Games events begin.