The problems with planning London’s 2012 Summer Olympic Games just seem to go on and on.
Last month, a large sector of fans buying tickets to the Games online were denied purchase because their VISA credit cards had expiration dates prior to August 2011. VISA fixed the problem, but separately the Trafalgar Square Olympics countdown clock stalled at 500 days, 7 hours, 6 minutes and 56 seconds for several hours, an issue that also needed to be rectified.
And, earlier this year when ticket prices for the 2012 Summer Games were released, many dubbed these Olympics the most expensive in history, though the London Olympic Organizing Committee (LOCOG) was quick to point out that low-cost tickets were available to most events, particularly for seniors and children.
Now, London’s hotel industry is the latest to revisit the pricing issue.
Last week, the British Hospitality Association (BHA) expressed outrage that rooms they had provided to LOCOG are now being offered at a significant mark up in hospitality packages. The BHA claims that they provided rooms to LOCOG with the understanding that they would be offered to those associated with the Games. Instead, hospitality companies are selling rooms at a mark up and folding them into corporate packages including tickets, hotel and on-site hospitality.
Authorized Olympics ticket sellers include CoSport, handling the international market, Prestige, selling primarily to UK residents, and Thomas Cook, taking the lower-end packages for those priced out of the others. Often a package is constructed to include hotel, tickets to both well-attended and less-well attended events, and hospitality services. One such package offered by CoSport costs more than £16,000 for two and includes a three night stay and entrance to the Opening Ceremonies, as well as tickets to a gymnastics qualifying round and a swimming final.
In London’s Telegraph, a BHA spokesman was quoted as saying, “LOCOG shouldn’t have sold the rooms on as they weren’t allocated for that purpose. If these rooms in the Cosport packages are part of that allocation then that is additional cause of enormous concern for the industry. We do not agree that these rooms should have been released to these agents to sell at grossly inflated prices.”
In response, LOCOG insisted that CoSport’s public hospitality packages are not associated with the preferential rate rooms which the BHA had provided. The Committee acknowledged that these rooms, numbering nearly 1,000, are still managed by CoSport, but it maintains that they are destined only for packages sold to national Olympic committees or to sponsors of the Games.
London’s hoteliers must be particularly anxious to show their indignation, since they have been the target of public suspicion regarding their own prices for the Games. Last month, in response to UK and European tour companies’ claims that London hotels had boosted their prices for the Games, hospitality professionals met with LOCOG to determine how to keep rates low. At the time, a BHA spokesperson maintained that the 56,000 rooms provided to LOCOG under their agreement would be charged at a fair price. However, this 56,000 represents only 40 percent of the total rooms available in London for the Games.
For its part, LOCOG has stated that the “certainty” factor is at play in these high-priced corporate packages. Since the only way to guarantee one will gain entrance to a particularly desired final at this time is through such a package, one pays for that costly privilege. And, with Olympics ticket resale deemed illegal by all unauthorized sellers, Olympic fans have few alternatives for purchase. Great Britain has a long standing suspicion of resellers, known as “touts” and often depicted as fraudulent scalpers.
Graham Burns, chairman of UK ticket resale advocacy group Association of Secondary Ticket Agents, sees this as just another way for LOCOG to extract all the money possible out of the Games.
“It is quite clear, and has been from the outset – that the Olympics committee, in collusion with the government, are quite clearly fleecing the public,” Burns told TicketNews. “They have become the biggest ‘touts’ in living memory. By keeping the Olympics tickets off the British secondary market, it is obvious that the ‘Officially Appointed’ gang can charge what they please, and it is quite evident that not only tickets but hotels, concessions and transport are licensed to fleece. It is quite shameful really, but how much is a ‘Sponsored bottle of Coke’ really going to cost?”
Burns continued, “We feel quite strongly that the public are not getting a fair deal, and it is not only apparent to us, but any thinking person has come to the same conclusion.”
As for the involved hospitality companies’ practice of folding in tickets for less desirable events and making them a requirement of purchase, Burns states that it is exactly these kinds of events that “inevitably find themselves on the secondary markets as they are always sold at below face value prices, and it is this phenomenon that the [organizers] seek to hide.”