London watchdog slams secrecy around Oly ticketing

A London city watchdog has slammed the committee organizing the

2012 Olympics for its ticket policy, arguing that the secrecy

surrounding the allocation of Olympic tickets has undermined public

confidence.

The 25-member London Assembly, which acts as a check on London

Mayor Boris Johnson, challenged Olympic organizers on Thursday to

give more information on its ticket allocations in a report labeled

”Sold Out?” The London Olympic organizing committee – called

LOCOG – is a private entity, and the assembly complained that means

it is exempt from Freedom of Information laws which could be used

to force a handover of the data.

”It is completely unacceptable that an organization that only

exists because of a huge investment of public money can hide behind

its status as a private company to avoid questions it does not

like,” said Dee Doocey, head the committee that wrote the report.

”For most people, the games will be a once-in-a-lifetime

experience, so it’s vital they have confidence in the ticketing

process, particularly those who have missed out on tickets.”

London Olympic organizers said they would respond to the

assembly’s request when ticket sales are done.

London’s Olympic ticketing process has been dogged by repeated

computer problems and huge demand. Organizers set up a complicated

lottery system in which people blindly registered for tickets and

handed over their credit card details to pay for them before they

knew what – if any – tickets they were getting.

A majority of ticket seekers failed to get any in the

first-round sale that ended in April – with 22 million requests

coming in for the 6.6 million tickets available in prices that

ranged from 20.12 pounds ($31.60) to 2,012 pounds ($3,159). Further

rounds were blighted by computer problems, and plans for future

ticket sales have failed to stem public grumbling.

As the July 27-Aug. 12 Summer Games draw near, the ticket

allocations for sponsors are likely to come under even greater

scrutiny for they give the impression that the wealthy and

connected get special treatment.

But more is at stake than dashed expectations. Britain faces

tough economic times, and British taxpayers are putting up 9.3

billion pounds ($14.6 billion) for games that most will be unable

to attend. Critics have charged that millions are being spent to

build stadiums and provide security for the event – only for the

public to be shortchanged.

”LOCOG is putting public confidence at risk by refusing to

provide a complete breakdown of how many tickets were available for

each event,” Doocey said in a statement.

The report was particularly critical of the committee’s failure

to provide a detailed breakdown of how many tickets have been sold

for each event – and for what price. It objected to what it called

organizers’ failure to say whether the cheaper tickets were spread

equally across all events.

Interest in some events, such as soccer, has been muted and

supply exceeds demand. Soccer’s main tournament is the World Cup,

and many of the top stars in the game are not eligible for the

Olympics because of age restrictions – most contenders must be

under 23.

”We always knew that ticket allocation would be difficult and

would disappoint some people,” Doocey said in a statement. ”But

if LOCOG had been open and transparent right from the start, a lot

of public suspicion and anger could have been avoided.”

Olympic authorities said in a statement they would comply with

the assembly’s requests – but that would have to wait until the

entire sale process is complete.

”We are committed to providing a full breakdown of ticket

sales, and believe the best time to do this is once we have

completed the final sales process – we still have over 3 million

Olympic and Paralympic tickets to sell and our priority is to get

those into the hands of sports fans,” organizers said.

”We are firmly committed to providing 75 percent of the total

number of Olympic tickets to the British public, and if we can

deliver more than this, we will,” they added.

The Paralympics run from Aug. 29 to Sept 9.