POSTED: June 25th 2011

JOHN GOODBODY: It's an ill ticketing wind which blows nobody any good

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Jun 25: Got any tickets? Those words have been endlessly uttered in pubs and restaurants, schools and homes of Britain as the details filtered through as to whom has been lucky in the ballot for seats at the 2012 Olympics.

Some 1.2m of the 1.9m Britons who applied for placeshave been unlucky. Very few people have secured exactly what they wanted, with the successful minority winning, on average, four tickets. So much for hours spent poring over the programme, wondering if one could fit in the weightlifting before the athletics finals or how long it will take to travel from the rowing in Windsor to the Olympic Park, the other side of London.

On Friday, those 1.2m had a second chance, when they were first in the queue — if you can be first in the queue among 1.2m - for about 600,000 seats (not including football). These included 40,000 for athletics, but mainly in the higher price bracket. For instance, the few available for the evening of the athletics on August 10, which includes the 4x100 metres men’s and women’s relays, are priced at £725.

Tickets for the football tournament are the only ones to have gone slowly, partly because they are so many (1.7m were left, after the firdt ballot, costing between £20 and £125) and partly because the matches are spread round the United Kingdom and it is uncertain whether any Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish players will want to risk the wrath of their national associations and, more particularly, of their clubs to take part.

The demand for games at Hampden Park in Glasgow has been described by Paul Deighton, the chief executive of the London Organising Committee, as “weak”. As a result organisers are planning to offer cut-price tickets to youngsters and local clubs, so the stadia will be as full as possible to satisfy the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and television companies.

Continental websites

Meanwhile, those unlucky in the original ballot have been busy on the continental websites, trying to buy up allocations from the authorised dealers in those countries, although they are taking a chance given that no one is sure whether those web-sites are authorised.

The question is: has this been a fair process? Sebastian Coe, the LOCOG chairman, has been the target of sustained criticism, with many people claiming special pleading.

I must admit the demand surprised me, not so much for the high profile events such as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the men’s 100metres final but for so many of the other events too. I never thought, for instance, that rhythmic gymnastics would sell out the first time round.

However, as Lord Coe has pointed out, there was no real alternative to this system. The demand was always going to outstrip the supply, this is true.

However, I do think that everyone who applied could have been allocated a minimum of two tickets, with individuals ranking their favourite events, when they submitted their forms and simultaneously warned that if they did not apply for enough, they might miss out entirely.

What the furore has proved yet again is that the word Olympic is so powerful a marketing word that vasts numbers of people are instinctively attracted to it. And that must delight the IOC.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001

Keywords · John Goodbody · LOCOG · IOC · tickets · Coe · Deighton

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