Any live entertainment event with high demand and limited ticket inventory typically leads to tickets being resold for much higher than face value and fans are often left to pay the high price or miss out on the event. For some, the chance of seeing such an event outweighs the cost. In the case of the 2012 London Olympic Games, however; many fans have not been able to purchase a ticket despite several empty seats for some of the most popular events in the Games at venues like Wimbledon, and with a closed secondary market, fans have nowhere to turn.
According to a recent press release from the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB), the distribution method used by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOGOG) backfired, causing immense ticketing problems.
The method was imposed by the LOGOC in order to prevent the unauthorized reselling of tickets for the 2012 Games and forced consumers to deal directly with CoSport, the exclusive ticketing partner of the LOGOC that was involved in previous Olympic ticketing scandals.
According to the NATB press release, the LOGOC has had several resellers put in jail, deported, and blacklisted from major websites like Google in order to take away their access to consumers. Not only have resellers been shutout, but fans have also been left in the dark, and the heat.
The NATB reports that several clients were forced to wait long hours in the heat just to find out that there were no tickets available or to receive tickets different from those originally reserved — even Olympic athletes were unable to find tickets for their family members yet on game day seats were left empty.
Back in June reports began to surface that 27 officials from the 54 countries represented were found to have violated the LOGOC’s rules against selling tickets. According to The Telegraph, undercover journalists from the Sunday Times posed as Middle Eastern ticketbuyers and discovered officials of several countries who were willing to sell blocks of tickets without informing the LOGOC or International Olympic Committee (IOC) for inflated prices — one official from Serbia was willing to sell 1,300 prime tickets for 80,000 while China’s official ticket seller, Caissa, was prepared to sell top-level seats for the Opening and Closing ceremonies, diving, gymnastics, and athletics for 6,000 each.
According to a statement from the LOGOC, “National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and their Authorized Ticket Sellers (ATRs) sign a contract with Logoc agreeing to specific terms and conditions.” The authorized sellers are limited to selling tickets within their own country. The Telegraph reported in June that 1.2 million tickets were distributed to NOCs to be used for sale within their own country and to be distributed to their athletes’ families and the country’s sponsors.
One fan from London, Ed Shorthose spoke with Reuters about his frustration over seeing empty seats after trying to purchase tickets for months. “It’s infuriating to see so many empty seats on TV. Surely it can’t be beyond the organizers to allow real sports fans to fill them up on a first come first served basis?,” questioned Shorthose.
Two weeks ago the LOGOC released an additional 3,000 tickets available to the public via the London 2012 website. According to Jackie Brock-Doyle, accredited seating for the Games in London was down 15 percent from previous events.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, “Often these are very nice seats in very high-profile positions — and so what we’re saying to the IOC and the International Sports Federations is if you’re not going to use them, could we have as many as possible back, because, of course, we’ve got lots of members of the public who would dearly love to go.”
Hunt had also spoke about a 30-minute rule where fans would be allowed to occupy vacant seats in the event that the spectators were either late or did not show up for the event; however, security staff told the BBC that the ticket releases were causing confusion with fans arriving expecting to be able to purchase the tickets and then not being able to do so.
Gary Adler, director and general counsel of the NATB says that the ticketing scandal that overshadowed the 2012 London Olympic Games is the perfect example of why a closed secondary market is not the answer.
Adler explains that without competition, consumers are forced to pay artificially inflated prices and with a closed market, consumers are forced to purchase tickets from the “black market” that are often counterfeit. According to Adler, members of the NATB are required to follow strict guidelines and offer ticketbuyers transparency and protection.
Donald Vaccaro, chairman of the board of TicketNetwork recently told TicketNews via email that “another problem that occurs is fans are locked into events and don’t have the freedom to transact tickets in a way that would allow them to follow their national teams.”
According to The Economist, tickets may be distributed in any fashion using any kind of ballot so long as the tickets can be resold for any amount that the seller can get — in the U.S. companies like StubHub resolve the difference between the face value of a ticket and its actual value.
Because tickets for the Olympic Games cannot be sold, transferred or traded, many tickets end up going unused resulting in empty seats that could have been occupied by someone who was unable to originally purchase a ticket and would give anything to see the event, even if that means paying higher than face value.