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Ticketing hurdles for 2012 Olympics

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BBC Sport blog editor | 19:48 UK time, Friday, 13 January 2012

London 2012 says its ticket resale website will reopen next week after it was taken down on its first day of operation last Friday.

Officials from organising committee Locog currently overseeing attempts to resolve the ticketing problems, led by commercial director Chris Townsend, won't say it publicly but anyone hoping to buy tickets from those selling them may have to wait a bit longer.

Having spent the week testing Ticketmaster's flawed resale system, it is clear London 2012 can no longer risk its reputation by trying to match sellers with buyers instantly.

Instead Locog, as part of its commitment to provide customers with a secure and legal way to sell unwanted tickets and avoid touts, will buy back tickets from those fans who no longer want them.

London 2012

London 2012 games has been hit by an unprecedented demand for tickets which forced the Ticketmaster website to shut down. Photo: Getty 

Once it has gathered all the returned tickets - and that number is expected to be a tiny fraction of the overall 6.6 million tickets available to the British public - it will look to put them on sale again at a later date, probably as part of the final sell-off of the one million remaining tickets in April or May.

This is entirely sensible. There is only one thing worse than not getting tickets and that is being told you have them only to discover subsequently that the website was too slow to update and the tickets you thought you had bought went to someone else – as happened in the second round of ticket sales last year.

But there are still serious questions for London 2012 and Ticketmaster to answer on the ticket sales process.

Although Locog will blame its partner (and sponsor) for the way the ticketing process has been run, it knows its reputation has been badly hit by the various setbacks, from the initial disappointment of the first phase of ticket sales which seemed to reward those who gambled big money on vast numbers of tickets, to the second public offering, with the technical gremlins set out above.

The number of tickets being sold back into London 2012 is likely to be small. But many big challenges lie ahead.

How will the sale of the last million tickets be handled? Will it be “first come, first served” or will those punters who have missed out twice get a short period to graze over the site before everybody else – as a reward for their commitment?

Then Ticketmaster and London 2012 face the difficult task of printing the 6.6 million tickets, keeping them secure and distributing them. There are a lot of pitfalls along the way.

Unless Townsend and his colleagues at Locog get a grip on the ticketing process now then it could become an even more toxic issue for them in the run-up to the Games. It sounds like today is a step in the right direction.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ticketing has been a farce from the start. If LOCOG did the correct thing from the start and allowed everyone 1 selection i.e up to 4 tickets for one event from a list in order of preference, we wouldn't be in this situation where people who received many tickets over a number of events trying to sell them back. I don't know where they got the idea from that tickets would be unsold. This is the UK and we love our sport so their wasn't any doubt tickets wouldn't be sold.

    What still annoys me is that if you have the money, you can buy any ticket you want. The amount of tickets given to sponsors is a bad decision which just shows how commercial the Olympics are.

    It's a shame that the rest of the UK feels left out by the Olympics. However much LOCOG dress up the torch and different event, the Olympics will still feel like an exclusive club

  • Comment number 2.

    I also have a question regarding the distribution of tickets. What will happen if a number of tickets are stolen between leaving the printers and reaching your house. I remember a few years back (not long ago) that tickets for a football match, could of been a FA cup final or Champions league final were stolen in transit / post (a few hundred tickets). The tickets couldn't be reprinted and so the people missed out. I guess they got their money bac but I guess this doesn't make up for missing out on the experience. What are the plans for this i.e if tickets are stolen?

  • Comment number 3.

    The lesson however is, for those hunting - do not give up hope.  There are going to be plenty of opportunities ahead.  But, you are going to have to work for them.  As de Coubertin said, it’s all about the struggle…

  • Comment number 4.

    Your blogs are always trying to show the bad in someone of something. I would hate to know you as a person, as you always interpret yourself, through your journalism, as both unhappy and excessively negative. You should be proud of our country in this wonderful opportunity of hosting the Olympic Games. You should certainly not be scrutinising the exceptional amount of effort that the London 2012 team are putting in to achieve absolute success in every department of its preperations. I do not know how you ever got a job in your sector, particularly amongst the BBC organisation. I have never seen or been aware of an article of yours that was positive or enjoyable to read. You are in a position of influence, so try and do something useful with it. I refuse to read anything under your name ever again.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ 4 - this is why LOCOG shouldn't, like a lot of other major venues, sell it's soul to Ticketmaster etc. People who are already forking out billions via taxation, shouldn't have the stress having tickets they don't want e.g. the people who got 1 rather than 2 tickets to go and watch a footie match and don't want to go by themselves.

  • Comment number 6.

    The selection of Ticketmaster was foolhardy. If the organisers had bothered to ask any person who had previously attempted to buy tickets for a major event via Ticketmaster about their experiences with the company then they would have been discouraged enough to avoid employing them.

    Ticketmaster do not have the capacity to offer tickets for major events in a way that is fair and consistent to customers. This has been the case for the last ten years and yet they are still selected by organisers to sell tickets.

  • Comment number 7.

    @2 - "The amount of tickets given to sponsors is a bad decision which just shows how commercial the Olympics are."

    The glory for the sponser should be solely the association between their name e.g. EDF going above an Olympic venue NOT their name + getting x number of tickets - surely that's just buying tickets + getting free advertising? LOL

  • Comment number 8.

    At 6

    "Ticketmaster do not have the capacity to offer tickets for major events in a way that is fair and consistent to customers. This has been the case for the last ten years and yet they are still selected by organisers to sell tickets."

    Prob because they are willing to pay more / give more money to the organisers to be associated with the event. Plus, if their system works, i.e allows people to buy a ticket regardless if it's fair or consistent then spend money on it and change it.

  • Comment number 9.

    5 - that will never have happened as if you asked for two tickets for an event you either got both or neither.

    4 - David Bond is unneccasarily negative most of the time be it fifa, olympics or whatever, however he does have the influence to get decent interviews so its a case of reading the words of the interviewee and ignoring his bias and reaching your own conclusions

    7 - i think describing the advertising as "free" is a bit misleading considering the millions spent on being an "official partner"

  • Comment number 10.

    > "How will the sale of the last million tickets be handled? Will it be “first come, first served” or will those punters who have missed out twice get a short period to graze over the site before everybody else – as a reward for their commitment?"

    If this happens it should only be for people who tried hard to get tickets in both the previous ballots. I tried for sensible tickets in the first ballot and failed; then altered my expectations in the second ballot and settled for higher-priced tickets to events that were less glamorous. It would be completely ridiculous if I was disadvantaged - in terms of the sort of prices I paid and the events I settled for - because I'd tried...

    Similar situation applies to "tasty tickets": there's talk of lots of good tickets for top events being included in this final 1,000,000. We all appreciate that there'll be some owing to venue completion/returns/contingencies etc., but not floods of top tickets.

    In general I think ticketing has been as well handled as possible, when demand is so massive and events so large and complex. Media and the British pysche like to moan.

    Some people will have bought tickets, but their circumstances have now changed... work situation, financial situation, they've moved abroad, etc. ... so, there needs to be this mechanism for reselling 'unwanted' tickets as that'll help more people attend.

    But it needs to be handled properly - and fairly. By the sounds of it they're trying to rescue that after initial problems.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm with @1. Absolutely ridiculous the way they were sold. worth stopping to think though.

    Why are we in a financial crisis? Because governments (of all persuasions) have borrowed far too much money, that they had no idea how to pay back. So we are being told - don't borrow, spend only what you can afford. Hence the austerity measures.

    Now ask: how do you get Olympic tickets? Borrow (against your credit card) large amounts of money that you hope you wont have to pay, to order huge amounts of tickets in the hope that you get some. Get loads of credit cards so you can make loads of applications.

    Hmm. Do you see the pattern?

    What a sad, sad reflection of our country's failing values. As usual, it is the normal everyday person who pays the price - in this case no Olympic tickets for 55% of people who applied. Welcome to the world of the haves and the have nots that the UK is so fast becoming. What a disgrace.

  • Comment number 12.

    To clarify what I meant in the first part of my post #10 above... I have friends who tried only for cheap tickets to 1 or 2 top events (big athletics night etc.) in these 2 preceding ballots. Unsurprisingly, they've currently no tickets to the Olympic Games.

    I settled for paying middle-to-high band prices for a few less glamorous events. It'd be unfair if they got first-dibs on any new/returned "tasty tickets" in the last ballot, for being comparatively uncommitted/not trying.

  • Comment number 13.

    You always fell like you are being ripped off if Ticketmaster is involved.

  • Comment number 14.

    The Olympic ticketing system seems to be lodged in the last century. I work in the USA, and I could not figure out how to buy a ticket as an English citizen with a US credit card, but instead was forced to buy expensive packages in the US. I gave up and bought a new DVR to record it. The system does not ask smart questions to figure out what is important. The commercial minds of the IOC don't seem to understand 21st century demographics.

  • Comment number 15.

    @4 Why should the failure of a public service be hushed-up, particularly as it has affected a significant majority of applicants.

    Strategically the use of ticket master for this last re-sale phase is flawed. Ticketmaster are good at wholesale for events even if they do impose charges on the buyer, THIS process should've been allocated to a recognised 'reseller' such as Seatwave or Viagogo they specialise in reselling tickets. So yet another poor decision by LOCOG.

    I have teenage children who are passionate about their sports (swimming / hockey & cycling) this process from the very beginning has paid lip service to the legacy of inspiring them. I would love for them to see a medal award ceremony and will keep trying but doubt it!

  • Comment number 16.

    @12 - Agreed. The second round was NOT a ballot - it was first-come-first-served and there were tickets left over at the end (not much admittedly, but I picked up an evening volleyball session and the women's football final from the second phase of it) so anyone who 'missed out' in the first and second rounds as David puts it only did so by turning their nose up at less popular/non-finals events. This shouldn't allow them any privilege in the final round.

  • Comment number 17.

    #11 Now ask: how do you get Olympic tickets? Borrow (against your credit card) large amounts of money that you hope you wont have to pay, to order huge amounts of tickets in the hope that you get some. Get loads of credit cards so you can make loads of applications.

    Why do people always abdicate all personal responsibility when it comes to credit cards? If somebody spends money they don't have by using a credit card, it is THEIR fault not the card's (or the olympic ticketing system).

    Having said that, like the idea of staging the olympics in the first place, the ticketing system was badly flawed. Firstly, they should have asked people to submit a list of events in preference order, with a limit of one application per household (or at least per adult), and limited the number of events that each application could be allocated.
    If Wimbledon can find a fair way to run a ticket ballot, why cant Wimbledon.

    Secondly why not sell smart cards before ticket allocation, then it is just a matter of activating the right cards for the right events. Same technology as used by many football clubs and also by oyster cards. Even better, link it to the oyster card system, and allow people free tube travel to and from the events. Better still, with one card for all events applied for, it is that bit more difficult (although sadly not impossible) for those who have applied for as many tickets as possible in the hope of making a profit by selling them on, instead we have supposedly state of the art venues still using outdated printed tickets.

    In any case the whole thing is pointless. If they held most of the sports outside of the olympics, they would struggle to sell out smaller venues, although they would at least sell the tickets to people who understood and had an interest in the sport. Sadly for many of the minority sports (swimming, handball, archery etc) those who follow the sports willl miss out to make way for tourists (in a sporting if not geographical sense). If you want to see athlets in the olympic stadium, just wait a couple of years, and be part of a crowd of a few thousand in there watching an international athletics meeting (or part of a 35k crowd watching Spurs or West Ham - if we drop the fiction that we need a large capacity athletics stadium).

  • Comment number 18.

    Put this into perspective: the real scams happen when 'ticketing agencies' 'guarantee' you a ticket for some big event (say Champions League Final), you send them the money, then about 4 weeks later you get told 'we over-estimated demand'.

    It's pure fraud and involves having free access to a large amount of money for 4 weeks.

    At least that's not going on with the Olympics, is it?

  • Comment number 19.

    I got fed up waiting on the incompetents at Locog and Ticketmaster and sold my tickets by other means making a very pleasing £740 profit. The ticketing has been a shambles and has already tainted London 2012, months before it actually starts.

  • Comment number 20.

    #19 well done - glad at least one person is getting some benefit from the Olympics apart from ticketmaster and the prawn sandwich brigade - I bet Seb Coe got 100m tickets in the ballot.
    Just hope your tickets arrive in time for you to send them on - doubt an individual would get away with the fraud described by #18 without the police taking an interest.

  • Comment number 21.

    Just by looking at the overpriced hospitality tickets that are not selling on many of the ATRs (buy a ticket with a pass to a hotel conference room or hospitality tent for a mark-up of 400% as an example) it's clear there are many, many thousands of seats for all events (including Athletics Finals) that have yet to find an occupant for the games. If you've a budget of around a thousand pounds then would expect they'll be opportunities to pick some up at a later date as they'll all be released as individual ticket sales either by the ATRs themselves or by return through LOCOG (can see it ultimately ending up as a first come first served for what's left around May time as no time to do anything else considering they've to put names to specific seats, print and distribute all by early July). If less than that then focus on some of the less glamorous events as there will still be many opportunities to pick up unsold tickets and get the chance for some hand on involvement with the Games.

    I too got very little from the 1st ballot and by getting something was excluded from the 2nd, however by setting more realistic expectations and monitoring the ATRs I've now got a nice mix of 10 tickets including the real highlight of the athletics programme from a British Point of View (men's 10000 and women's heptathlon finals on the first Saturday night).

  • Comment number 22.

    #21 - Hmm. You got 10 tickets?? There's a flaw in itself when so many have lost out completely.

    #17 - Have to agree with the comment about chancers and sport tourists going to see less popular sports when genuine fans of those sports will miss out. Not dissimilar to Euro '96 when all these England 'fans' appeared out of the woodwork all of a sudden and those who'd followed the team throughout the hell (as a football fan) 80s.

    Hospitality suits are my biggest bugbear. They hoover up tickets to any big event and quaff their fluff whilst chomping on their prawn sandwiches. Disgusting type of people that they are.

  • Comment number 23.

    We (the british) cant complain if every seat at every event is filled, as this would make this olympics the most sucessfull ever...
    The issue is when there are unfilled corporate seats, which honest fans could fill.
    Ticketmaster is widley known to just be bad, so thats no surprise.
    The surprise was the massive interest in the first round, no-one predicted the level of demand (and if you say you did your lying), and LOCOG had a system which was overwhelmed and favoured those who could afford to hedge bets, kind if like a capitalist economy (but thats a different issue).
    If anyone still wants to see an event with out tickets, go to the Marathon, Triathalon, Cycling Road Race and Time Trial ... All free, all whith a chance of a medal, and all exciting

  • Comment number 24.

    or invest your 'tickets money' in a new TV or a party
    or in participating in your favorite sport
    or give it to a charity

  • Comment number 25.

    The ticketing system from the start has been a joke. A "draw" system in round 1 followed by a first-come-first-serve oh the server has crashed, round 2. Both failed horribly. As a Londoner of 30 years and someone that has to bare the brunt of the Olympics without yet getting a single ticket (and I did apply for a lot) I feel hugely let down. No allowances for residents of London to buy even a single ticket ahead of those outside of the capital. It's like they ignored all lessons of ticket selling in the past and decided to go ahead with their brilliant idea. What pains me more is that the idiots that pushed such an idea probably have plenty of top-line tickets.

  • Comment number 26.


    Try Cosport (the official Austrian reseller). Tickets for 18 sports still on sale (and no delivery charge unlike LOCOG if you collect in London). Alternatively Eventeam (the official French reseller). Tickets for 11 sports still on sale. EU rules may not allow Londoners/UK Citizens any preference, however they also give them the right to buy tickets from any EU reseller so we can use that to our advantage. Alternatively LOCOG are still selling tickets for football (including Wembley) on a first-come first-served basis. Whichever way there's no need to be a victim of the allocation system (unless you're one of the millions who've never been to an athletics meeting in their life yet feel they have an inherent right to be one of the c70,000 paying spectators at the 100 metres final or opening ceremony and aren't really interested in anything other than that =8-).

  • Comment number 27.

    11 You seem to suffer from the same memory lapse that most people who have fallen into the right wing trap possess.

    We are not in a financial crisis because governments borrowed too much. We are in a financial crisis because banks lent money that they didn't have to individuals who could not pay it back.

    The government debt only occurred after the governments spent a fortune bailing out the banks and trying to spend to prop the economy up. The British national debt was the lowest it had been since before World War II at the point when the banks started to get into trouble.

    But your point about the credit cards is extremely valid and so is the one about haves and have nots.

  • Comment number 28.

    #16 ... yes I think that's a fair summary of what I was getting at.

    To illustrate this: my friends and I were sat at the pub a little while ago. We all love sport, and we all wanted to experience a home Olympics, for probably the only time in our lives.

    Over the course of the 1st and 2nd processes we've picked-up a variety of small batches (typically 3/4 tickets) to preliminaries in Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Handball, Greco-Roman Wrestling and I think Fencing. We paid good prices for many, often Band B-D.

    So hopefully we'll all get to 1 or 2 events; but they're not "tasty tickets" and we did not only try for cheap tickets. We're what helped LOCOG ensure all events sold-out.

    With this in mind I don't see why people who, as you say, 'turned their noses up' at such events in the 1st/2nd processes should get first-dibs at any tickets in the 3rd, let alone at "tasty tickets".

  • Comment number 29.


    Cheers for hints, I'll check them out. I'm actually in Oz at the moment.

    I may not have been to an Olympics in the past (there have only been a couple I could afford to go to given my age), but I am a legitimate sports fan and a tax paying Londoner. It would have just been nice if Londoners had the opportunity (to decline as well) to buy a single ticket to even a random event.

  • Comment number 30.

    Let's seperate two clear issues here.

    1. Yes demand was huge and there will always be disappointments when that is the case - that in itself isn't unfair. There was always going to be big demand for tickets, despite the economic situation (and perhaps because most of the country does use credit cards) major events in this country (Glastonbury, Wimbledon, majot football events, Hyde Park gigs etc.) often sell out, frequently on the day tickets go on sale. The Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime event for most people and a finite number of tickets are available. I believe too many of these will go to sponsors but that's more a reflection on how the world works than the Olympics or LOCOG. specifically.

    2. Unrelated to that... the ticket sales have been badly organised - pointing this out is not un-patriotic or whinging it's just the way it is. They could have been fairer in the first instance, as people have said, by getting people to list preferences but it is the technical let downs which have been most disappointing. I've seen the ticketing site crash several times in several different ways - I've seen tickets listed as available when they weren't, I've been told I had tickets and then not being charged and then (for different tickets) vice versa! Add to that the problems people had with snycronised swimming, trying to re-sell thir tickets on and the suspension of the site for a week and you cannot disagree it has been shambles.

    Why do all events have to go on same at the same time when they clearly can't handle it? Even when just the football tickets were listed they did all venues and all dates in one go and the site crashed.

    At this stage I don't think they can make decisions for future sales based on who did or did not apply for previous tickets - it would make it complicated and probaably lead to further problems. Despite the technical problems there have been opportunities for people to get tickets, there are now and there will be more in future, but they may have to do a little bit of work to get them. I have bought four sets of cheapish tickets in four different sales (3 in the UK and one from a European ATR -2 x football at Wembley, handball and beach volleyball) and I haven't just been lucky four times. Be realistic about what tickets you are going to get, plan ahead and be online at the right times and I honestly believe you will get a ticket to an event.

    As someone has said if you end up ticketless then events like the cycling, marathon and triathlon are all free and there will be ton

  • Comment number 31.

    ...s of events where large crowds can watch events on big screens where the atmosphere is what we make it. There are also related music and cultural events close to the Olympic park and paralympic tickets readily available. This is our Olympics - let's make it successful.

  • Comment number 32.

    #27 you would expect debt to be low at the start of the banking crisis, given that we were at the end of a huge boom funded by the housing bubble, and the reckless gambling of the banks. At the same time Gordy had embarked on an unprecedented spending spree boosting the size of the public sector, balancing the books through PFI (which is off-book) and through the tax revenue generated by the banking boom.

    Whether gordon actually believed that he had put an end to boom and bust or whether he was deliberately missleading the tax payer is open for debate, but the UK economy was a house of cards - hence the meltdown.

    The banks should take their share of the blame, as should the government (for miss-maanaging the economy) and the public (for fueling the housing boom and running up huge levels of personal debt).

  • Comment number 33.

    #30 - I agree. Planning; making informed choices; being prepared to pay higher ££s, to less glamorous events. These were all options open to people and all ballots were random... For those comfortable with doing it, other nation's ATRs were also options.


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