JOHN GOODBODY: IOC needs to take control of ticketing at future Olympics
THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications
November 14 - Powerful support for a revamp of Olympic ticketing has come from Sir Craig Reedie, International Olympic Committee Vice-President and a key figure in London getting the 2012 Games.
Even before the announcement this week of the detailed breakdown of the ticketing in London, when it was striking to learn what a relatively small proportion of Britons had tickets for the most attractive events, Sir Craig had urged the IOC “to go into the ticketing business and handle the ticketing for the Games.”
Sir Craig, who was chairman of the British Olympic Association, when London got the Games in Singapore in 2005, wants the IOC to be responsible for the ticketing worldwide and also to help the host nation in their domestic sales.
Before the Games, The Sunday Times in London exposed the chicanery rife in some countries when they showed how some national Olympic committees were selling seats well above face value on the ‘Black Market’ and making considerable profits. Voloodmyr Gerashchenko, the secretary general of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee, was forced to resign after the scandal broke.
There were still some empty seats at many of the most prestigious events in London, partly because of the ‘no-shows’ of sponsors and their clients, officials with international federations and also of journalists. I was embarrassed, as I watched Michael Phelps win his record 19th Olympic medal in London, from the press area in which there were at least 20 vacant seats immediately surrounding me. Yet behind me, there was row after row of seats, absolutely packed with spectators.
It is certainly difficult to anticipate well in advance the allocation for the media as certain events on certain days do attract particular interest, especially if home competitors are involved, sometimes unexpectedly. The demand can vary enormously. Yet I do believe that more could be done to ensure more seats are filled.
Unpredictability of demand applies less to the sponsors and their guests than it does to the media. So the IOC should try harder in Rio to ensure that people, who have been given seats, actually use them.
London sold 10.99 million of the 11.3 million tickets for the Olympics and Paralympics. Sales brought in £659 million towards its total budget of £2.4 billion. However, some of the most popular events were seemingly watched by relatively few numbers of UK residents because 1.2 million tickets went to overseas national olympic committee and official agencies.
For instance, the organisers say that about 31,000 seats, or 51 percent, were sold to the UK market for the Men’s 100 metres when Usain Bolt retained his title, while the final sessions of track cycling, swimming and gymnastics sometimes consisted of less than 40 percent of home supporters.
These figures have outraged many Britons, who were deprived of a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience of seeing the Games. However, these figures do in fact underestimate the actual number of Britons watching the Olympics because many others got their tickets direct from official websites abroad –as I did for my family--or from friends living in a foreign country, who had obtained their tickets locally.
The issue of ticketing will clearly not go away. It is now time for the IOC to have a close examination of the problem. And to do something about it.
** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2012 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 12th 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.
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