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2012 Olympic ticket fiasco causes concern

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James Pearce | 21:59 UK time, Friday, 6 January 2012

When people ask me about the online ticketing system for London 2012 one word springs to mind. Shambles.

It's a word that feels very out of place when considered alongside the rest of the project.

So much has gone right for London 2012 since the city was awarded the Olympics back in 2005 - in particular the achievement in making sure that all the venues will be ready in time.

Ticketing has been the one area that has appeared to lurch from one fiasco to the next.


Olympic mascots Wenlock (left) and Mandeville have been busy touring the UK promoting the London Games amid ticketing fiasco. Photo: Getty 

No Games can be great without people filling the stadia. It's the tickets which give those spectators access to the wonderful Olympic arenas.

It's tickets which should connect the public to the Games by being their visible invitation to join the party.

But for many people ticketing is currently succeeding only in giving them a sense of disconnection from London 2012 - not connection.

The website, which is run by Ticketmaster, has struggled to cope with demand from the start of the process.

You might recall that the first sales period had to be extended after the site crashed, or 'slowed down' to use London 2012's chosen language.

There were more problems in the second round of sales when thousands of people thought that they'd bought tickets, only to be told the following day that they wouldn't be charged, as they hadn't actually got any tickets at all.

Others who purchased tickets to watch synchronised swimming were more fortunate. Finger trouble by a member of staff at London 2012 was responsible for putting on sale ten thousand tickets which didn't exist.

These customers have had to be offered a swap with seats at some of the Games' most sought after events like the men's 100m final.

These are the specifics. The overall picture is just as damaging. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had spent hours carefully making their selection, left with no tickets at all.

It's hardly the kind of publicity that London 2012 organisers were hoping for little more than six months before the Olympic opening ceremony.

Of course, part of the problem is the extraordinary demand for tickets. London 2012 cannot be blamed for that - in some ways they are the victims of their own success in drumming up so much interest.

This level of demand, though, is hardly a surprise, and organisers had nearly six years to prepare their ticketing system.

The truth is that it's not working, and it should be. In the end this will probably all be forgotten. London 2012 will be rightly judged on the success of the fast approaching days in July, August and September of Olympic and Paralympic competition.

Today's resale farce, though, is not the way in which anybody at London 2012 wanted to start the Olympic year. It's highly embarrassing.

All of us who dream that the Games will go well can only hope that the organisation of those days of competition is rather better than the shambles of the ticketing process which has preceded it.


  • Comment number 1.

    It has been a mess, but thanks to your ticket tips getting me started I now have an impressive number of tickets from official EU Sources so my party invites will be in the post regardless of LOGOC, so thanks for that. You talk about demand, you are right. I cant understand why the main stadium is so small. The Sydney Stadium held 100,000, in much smaller city/country/region, it was built like the Swimming centre at London 2012 so that it could be converted to a smaller stadium after the games. This should have been done in London, get an extra 20,000 into OC and the big Athletic events. Never mind, lets not be negative it will be a great event and London will be a great place to be during the games.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am not sure why this comes as such a surprise. I have spent many a morning trying to purchase concert tickets from websites who do not have the facilities to cope with the demand resulting in messages telling me to try again. Surely this should have been a given if no major changes were put in place?

  • Comment number 3.

    Sadly the first day of Resale will bring a lot of the naysayers and 'haters' out of their caves. In my opinion, people should focus their ire on Ticketmaster.

    That said, for true fans there are plenty of opportunities out in mainland Europe through the ATR program to get tickets. That goes for the Paralympics too. Get on social media now, and have a peek at the blog below for more detail.

    LOCOG will get it right. In the meantime, stay the course!

  • Comment number 4.

    The tickets i put up for REsale were put 'for sale' by LOCOG / Ticketmaster at Over DOUBLE the price!!! We can't Tout tickets, but THEY can!?!
    I had Many Athletics tickets in my basket today, only to be told, "Oh No you don't!" it's very much like a Panto, but without the laughs!!

  • Comment number 5.

    I've been a supporter and defender of LOCOG over ticketing all along but I have to say this was a farce of an idea. They must have known thousands would be on the site looking for scraps. To constantly see tickets available when they were sold hours before will have infuriated many. To be unable to automatically remove them once sold was a failure to test the technology.

    I'm just glad I didn't rely on LOCOG to get my tickets.

  • Comment number 6.

    I am afraid the whole ticketing procedure has left a very nasty taste in my mouth. The initial ticket lottery seemed to turn into a Simon Cowell type game show where you had to gamble on whether to: -

    a) apply for loads of tickets that you probably could not afford to pay for and therefore possibly run up huge debts you cant pay off in order to try and get some or
    b) be sensible and only apply for tickets you could afford to pay for.

    I went for option b and of course got none. Seems like I should have taken option a, possibly running up huge debts I'd struggle to pay off, which as we all know has worked so well recently in the world economy.

    And now with the resale the web site can't manage the basic function of removing tickets that have been sold. Which when you think about it is one of the more fundamental things a ticket website should do. But not to worry, it's not as if it's an important event or that there's been that much notice and chance to get it right.

    I love the Olympics, and would have loved to have gone as I actually do care about the sports like badminton and table tennis (as opposed to just being there so I can video it on my phone and stick it on youtube). And I do accept that there will be massive over subscription. But you can't help thinking that there must have been a fairer way to allocate tickets, in which the people who have not got tickets do not feel let down by the whole process.

    I will be extremely angry if I see empty seats at many events. May be next time they should leave it to the touts as at least you know where you are with them and they would not have made such a complicated cock up of the process.

  • Comment number 7.

    I tried to buy Olympic tickets yesterday without success. The funny thing is that I had exactly the same problem using a Ticketmaster site last year for the FA Cup semi-final. Tickets were on the site as being available- you could even choose your seats- then you were told they were not available when you tried to pay. Extremely annoying! The point is that these problems were entirely predictable but Ticketmaster don't care because they will still get their profit. But embarassment has been caused to the people that are organising the Olympics. However we all need to remember that its not their fault that demand is so high.

  • Comment number 8.

    James highlights the problem that arose with the second round of sales. I was one of those whose expectations were let down. At the time I received an apologetic email from London 2012 stating “We want you to know that we will match your determination of wanting to be at the Games with our commitment to continue to find opportunities for you. We will be back in contact with you ahead of the next Olympic ticket sales period later this year”. I phoned them earlier this week and asked them why they had not met their commitment to get back to me before the end of 2011 with details of how they were going to provide an opportunity. The customer service desk was very polite but was not able to provide a direct answer to the question.

  • Comment number 9.

    @thegreenster Dont be stupid, they obviously werent your tickets.

    The prices are dependent on the category of ticket, and these prices have been fixed since the first ballot.

    Lets say you had Handball Prelim tickets for £20 - this makes them Category D. If tickets for that same session were on sale yesterday for £40 - then that makes them Category B. Different categories, therefore different tickets.

  • Comment number 10.

    I dont know why so many people are moaning about the whole ticket process?? I put in for a few tickets and got 4 to the very last athletics session (Mens 4 x 100!), 4 for table tennis, 4 for archery and 3 for badminton (which annoys me as doesnt seem fair nor right that I now have to tell one of the '4' that they cannot come badminton.)

    It was a ballot that we all knew were long odds, and it worked perfectly fine for me throughout.

    Stop moaning and get excited, it will still be fantastic experience to watch it from home knowing it's your home Olympics and is once in a lifetime!

    I for one, cannot wait!

  • Comment number 11.

    You are right about the shambles. My wife and I applied for tickets for various events, but received nothing. We have spent years participating in and contributing to sports clubs in this country, yet when the Olympics comes, we are denied the right to participate in the. I doubt we'll bother to watch - we felel completely disenfranchised, watching our chance for seats go either to foreign bigwigs or bankers flaunting their wealth in our faces or to Britons with no previous interest in sport! So don't tell me this is the People's Games, Lord Coe! Rubbish!

  • Comment number 12.

    I had no problem with the ticketing site during the initial period, I knew that it would be busy when first launched and just before the deadline so avoided those times.
    The problem seems to be that Ticketmaster have obviously tried to do the job on the cheap by trying to use the same website for both the ballot applications (which it was designed for) and the first come first serve sales parts of the ticketing process which is a fundamentally different problem to solve. In fact Ticketmaster already have a system to sell tickets first come first serve as this is how most of their business is done so why they didn't reuse that system is a mystery.
    Although Ticketmaster must share a lot of the blame, someone at LOCOG should have tested the system from the customer's perspective and said that it doesn't really work.

  • Comment number 13.

    I just hope the games themselves live up to their hype and we don't get our traditional British summer.

    The Ticket fiasco has lurched from one farce to another, after what had happened previously you thought they would have seen this coming. I guess as long as the seats are sold, be that to the general public or via sponsors, LOGOC don't seem to really care, Ticketmaster will walk away with their slice of the pie. The only losers are those of us who actually WANT to go.

    There can only be small minority who are happpy with what they have been allocated. I wanted to make a day out of it and go to three qualyfying sessions all in one day. I was lucky to get one out of three, i'm now in a situation of weighing up the costs of coming down from the Midlands for one session in an Olympics which is fast losing it's shine.

    I was hoping to pick up another session in the resale to make it worthwhile but thats not looking likely.

  • Comment number 14.

    Further to my earlier post - here's some more on the ATR process, adopted by National Olympic Committees globally. Seek and you shall find..!

  • Comment number 15.

    Did Norfolk n Chance at 10 read before posting? They start by telling other people not to complain, after all they have 4 sets of tickets, and proceeds to do the same thing themselves because one set was for 3 and not 4 seats. Quite funny but makes no sense.

  • Comment number 16.

    The greatest farce is I haven't got any tickets. Never wanted any either unless they are weightlifting.

  • Comment number 17.

    Just a quick note to say I am not interested in the olympics in the least, so at least the tickets that I would have bought, had I had any interest in this white elephant of an event, will now be available to someone else. Or not, as the case appears to be.


  • Comment number 18.

    Of course the selling of tickets was a shambles, but to claim it's the only shambles of the whole Olympic project; as you've done in your second sentence; is an outright lie.

    Is the spending of well over half a billion ponds on a stadium that wasn't designed for any other purpose than athletics, even though everyone on earth knows there is zero legacy in a giant athletics stadium, not a shambles?
    Or how about spending hundreds of millions on other venues that are temporary?
    What about the hockey centre, a perfect size for other sports after the games, but no, it's built for the games then most of it will be dismantled, leaving a tiny arena with no other uses?
    Then consider the media centre, a project that would seem perfect for a tv company or even a college to move into after the games, but no, it was built with no thought about its future and so will end up being converted and sold off at a massive loss with zero legacy for anyone.
    The Olympic village itself has already lost taxpayers over £275m in being sold to the Qatari ruling family for a bargain price.
    These are just a few things I'd class as a shambles that I can think of, I'm sure there are many other shambles associated with the whole Olympic project that has seen vast sums of public money disappear, but it seems you've dismissed all of these things.

    I'm looking forward to the Olympics and hope it will be a massive success, but stop spinning the truth, you're sounding like Alastair Campbell and other professional 'spin doctors' and we all know that that phrase just means, very good liar.

  • Comment number 19.

    Ticketing is often a problem - not just for these Games. But there are a lot of dodgey people out there who make it more difficult than it needs be for the rest of us. To be really fair, why allow people to buy up more than a fair share in the first place. Families of more than 6 - really? And as for the "returns" - are there really so many who bought intending to go, but now have a bereavement in the family, etc. I don't think so. Many people thought they could make a bit of a killing - as with many a pop concert in the past. Comon, we're not naive.

  • Comment number 20.

    Was it a terrible system yesterday : absolutely. Could Ticketmaster expected this : yes they could have. So LOCOG failed, but still i am the proud owner of tickets for over 20 events.... Guess some people will look further when one place does not provide what is wanted :). Over the last few months i have bought tickets from France, Belgium, Switserland, Czeck republic, Netherlands, England and have seen other fans buy in Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain and probably a few more i forgot. For those who want to go that extra OFFICIAL mile also : check out for instance, they still have a few tickets in their webshop, or better : get on twitter and start following @2012Tweeps. Those are true tickethunters, helping eachother where needed and thereby have bought almost 7500! tickets in the last 6 months. And if you want to stay up to date on new tickets being released from OFFICIAL ATR's, get an account on You get an email when one of many ATR's troughout Europe releases new tickets.

  • Comment number 21.

    This is purely Ticketmaster being rubbish.
    That's it. If they can't do it properly I'd hope there is some sort of fine imposed on them for not providing the correct service for LOCOG.

    And as for the "returns" - are there really so many who bought intending to go, but now have a bereavement in the family, etc. I don't think so. Many people thought they could make a bit of a killing

    Killing how? It's illegal to resell these to anyone but friends and family. And you don't need a reason to resell. The biggest ones probably being that they didn't get everything they wanted so it's not worth coming down from Edinburgh having just the one ticket, or they put in for 3 sets of one event to make sure they got at least one ticket and got more than that.

    Thing is, why is it still down?

  • Comment number 22.

    Lord (second-to-Ovett) Coe - how on earth does he still get any plaudits? - it will be alright on the night, he tells us, as his shabby cost-cutting enterprise staggers into the final bend. Dear God, even the South Koreans could do it better.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Norfolk n Chance wrote:
    I dont know why so many people are moaning about the whole ticket process?? "

    Because while you appear to have had a good experience, many, MANY other people have had a nightmare with the ticketing farce and, looking forward to the games or not, they're quite right to be complaining about it! Or do you suggest everyone just shut up and pretend there's no problem? Are you really that dense that you can't see the problems that have gone here just because YOU happened to be very, very lucky with your tickets?

  • Comment number 24.

    Is it just me but wouldn't it have been better to allow people who wanted to sell there tickets to have a couple of weeks to notify the olympic website, and then the olympic website to put them on sale shortly afterwards when they knew exactly the tickets that they had for resale rather than manage the two stages in one go - which they quite clearly can't manage!!!

    Maybe I'm just too simple but the above seems quite basic to me!!

  • Comment number 25.

    The hysteria has to be compartmentalised - the failure of the Resale website is no more an indication that the London Games are going to be a failure, any more than seeing a typo in a national newspaper indicate the articles are being written by monkeys.

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    I, for one, consider the 2012 ticketing website to a marvelous success. I got tickets to the mens' basketball semis at the North Greenwich Arena during the ballot and then successfully bought a pair of tickets to the basketball prelims at the Basketball Arena on Friday via the resale method.
    Doesn't get any better than being able to see your chosen sport at such a high level. Well done Ticketmaster and Locog!


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