Even when trying to right the wrongs of its first round of 2012 Olympics ticket sales, the London Olympic Organizing Committee (LOCOG) again faced serious problems in the second round which began last weekend.
This second round of sales, targeting only those who missed out on getting tickets during LOCOG’s troubled first attempt at selling tickets to countrymen for their 2012 Summer Games, began on June 24 at 6 AM British Summer Time (BST) and will run until 6 PM BST on July 3.
With so many fans applying and a new first-come, first served system in place this time, it seemed a recipe for disaster. And it happened. Within hours of its launch the system failed, crashing under the weight of so many applicants. Throughout the day, numerous fans received the following error message when trying to make a purchase on the site: “Sorry, we cannot process your request. Please try again later.” Organizers took to Twitter to try to manage the mess externally, with tweets such as “If you recieve (sic) the ‘sorry, we cannot process your request’ message, this is due to high demand on the site,” followed by “please keep trying, the site is still transacting.”
About 15,000 fans (roughly 10 percent of the applications processed so far in this round) who believed they were successful in purchasing tickets, even receiving notification that a purchase had been made, learned on June 27 that they had not secured tickets after all. The problem was with a Ticketmaster site that was not live, which meant that it was unable to catch overbooking of events and ultimately sold more tickets than were available. Making matters worse, organizers announced that same day that the 15,000 will be ineligible to re-apply for tickets in this round.
News also emerged in these first days that 150,000 of the 2.3 million tickets available in this round had been sold to foreign nationals. Though frustrating to British fans, this is all absolutely legal, because European Union citizens are eligible to purchase these tickets under the free trade agreements existing between the countries.
And more than a year before the Games actually begin, illegal sellers are out in force. Earlier this week, London’s Metropolitan Police arrested a man accused of running a fraudulent ticket Web site from the city. The police were tipped off by Olympic organizers who noticed that someone was using social networking sites to get traffic to the Web site. Detective Chief Inspector Nick Downing commented on the arrest in London’s Telegraph, stating “As we have all seen, there has been a huge demand for tickets to see this world-class sporting spectacle, and unfortunately criminals will be looking for every opportunity to exploit this.
“We will be looking to use the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006, and existing police powers, wherever appropriate, to stop those who seek to make money from genuine fans through fake websites and other ticket scams.”
As expected, tickets went quickly for this second round of sales. Within two hours of the June 24 launch, tickets for 10 sports were sold out, and by the third day of sales, the only tickets remaining were in football (American soccer), volleyball and Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling.
Those who have won tickets in the first or second rounds of sales are welcome to try for any remaining tickets in a third round of sales beginning at 6 AM BST on July 8 and running until 6 PM July 17. As with the second round, this is a first-come, first-served sales format.
This week, former Olympic gold medalist distance runner and current Olympics chair Lord Sebastian Coe, appearing at a Swiss business conference, found himself once again defending the process and trying to reach out to the disgruntled. “No event in world history has sold so many tickets so quickly. I don’t for one minute downplay the disappointment of those who, at this stage, haven’t got tickets.”
LOCOG claims that roughly a million additional tickets for the Games will go on sale in December. This allotment will come from sponsors who return tickets they cannot use and from new seating counts as venues are built and configured. LOCOG’s authorized resale Web site, still in the works, will provide another source of tickets for frustrated fans, but its launch is not expected until early next year.