Organizers of last winter’s Vancouver Olympics, who touted the event’s own ticket resale Web site, find that months after the Games’ completion, they have to write off a loss of close to $2 million due to a massive scam that targeted the site.
Using stolen VISA credit card numbers, a group identified as a gang of Latvian criminals bought thousands of tickets to hockey, figure skating and other marquee events from the resale site, but the transactions had to be voided once it was discovered that the credit card information was stolen.
The Vancouver Olympics Committee (VANOC) was on the hook for the lost money, but reportedly it was able to recoup about $500,000 from VISA and insurance companies. The rest, almost $1.5 million, the organizers had to write off. Two men, Arturs Abroskins and Andris Stuks, were arrested and convicted of fraud, but authorities said as many as 30 people could have been involved in the scam. The two were deported back to Latvia; a third was arrested but was released.
“If we get nothing, there’s no change; if we get something more, it’s effectively a win,” John McLaughlin, VANOC chief financial officer, said in a statement about the possibility of receiving more compensation back from insurers.
Outside of the fraud, VANOC was largely pleased with the ticket resale site, under which organizers took a 20 percent cut of each resale order. Overall, the Vancouver Games had 1.6 million tickets, and sold 1.49 million, according to VANOC.
VANOC organizers late last week announced the fraud write off and the rest of the financial picture in Games final accounting report. The Games basically broke even, but only after Canadian taxpayers and the International Olympics Committee paid millions of dollars to shore up any potential shortfalls.
Organizers of the London Games are planning to launch a similar ticket resale site as that of the Vancouver Games.