Organizers for the 2012 London Summer Olympics are reporting an impressive public response to the online ticket application process which closed April 27.
Following the closing of sales, London Olympic Organizing Committee (LOCOG) reported over 20 million ticket requests from over 1.8 million people for the 6.6 million tickets available. Sales were open to the UK and 26 European countries, but UK residents applied for 95 percent of tickets sold. More than half of the 650 events, including significant percentages of all swimming and tennis events, were oversubscribed, with ticket holders for those events to be determined by lottery. Applicants will only find out if they have been successful when their credit cards are debited between May 10 and June 10, but if they are in a lotteried event, they won’t know which events they have succeeded in booking until June 24.
LOCOG said there have been sell outs for a number of events at the 2012 Games, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Sold out sports events include rhythmic gymnastics, cross-country equestrian, track cycling and combination events the triathlon and modern pentathlon. A last hour surge in sales on the evening of the 26th (the original sales closing date), leading to some fans having problems completing ticket purchases, resulted in an extension of the deadline by one hour, to 1 a.m. local time on April 27.
The Committee had expected to sell about 80 percent of its tickets in this round, promising the remainder of tickets to be available once again to fans in June and July. There is some speculation that the next round of sales will include discounts on the remaining tickets, which could cause irritation among those who paid full price. Still, with resale of Olympics tickets illegal for all but authorized UK sellers, this is the only game in town, for now, if one hopes to attend the Games.
For those who ultimately receive more tickets than they wanted or could afford through this process, LOCOG will be launching a ticket exchange site similar to that set up for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, with exchange allowed at no more than face value. But the Committee has no plans to bring the site live before next year, leaving a number of fans potentially holding expensive unwanted tickets.
Unused seats have caused embarrassment to Olympic committees in the past, including, most notably, the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, with its worldwide shots of empty stands. Joe Cohen, founder and CEO of UK secondary ticket company Seatwave, expressed concern to the Guardian about the lock out of other potential ticket sellers and its impact on Olympics attendance and fan satisfaction: “There is a growing risk that millions of Olympic fans will not get the chance to attend the games and events they want to. The current ballot system is confusing, unnecessarily burdensome and the restrictions on ticket resale will mean that thousands of tickets will go unused.”
However, thus far LOCOG and London’s Metropolitan Police have been determined to block those who would resell Olympics tickets. Last year saw the launch of Operation Podium, a unit of 36 city detectives dedicated to rooting out organized crime and ticket fraud activities associated with the Games. While the unit has been involved in numerous arrests to date, its objective is primarily to disrupt business for these ticketers, whether by shutting down their sites, seizing assets, or cutting off payment sources.