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Should Sebastian Coe apologise?

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Tim Franks | 17:28 UK time, Friday, 17 June 2011

Google - that friend of the deskbound journalist - suggests there are 166,000 electronic entries for "Sebastian Coe" and "sorry".

This doesn't mean that our Lord of the Olympics is a serial apologiser. In the top ten is an article he penned for The Daily Telegraph, last year, extolling the easy thrill of running: "I always felt sorry for swimmers, confronted by thousands of metres of grouting each week."

But the question of the moment is whether that list of results (which Google accomplished in a Bolt-esque 0.06 seconds) should be added to.

Now that my wife, or I (but I hope my wife) will be booting up the computer at 0555 BST next Friday, to apply for the next tranche of tickets, is it Lord Coe's fault that one of us will be knackered and in a filthy mood for the rest of the day?

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After two sweat-stained hours spent poring over the Olympic schedule, in the run-up to the initial ballot, in which I shipped far more money than we could afford on a fiendishly clever array of tickets, I then - weeks later - spent at least that long complaining noisily by text and phone and email about the fact that I'd got none of the tickets I'd applied for.

Exhibit A was my dead cert: the early rounds of the handball. How could that possibly have been over-subscribed?

The truth is now spread before me in the 45-page document which the London 2012 Organising Committee (Locog) has helpfully supplied for those known as the "second chancers".

This doesn't just show me that there are a few sessions of "Wrestling - Greco-Roman" yet to be snapped up. But also that my strategy, so brilliantly conceived as I cackled manically over the keyboard, was also that of everybody else decadent enough to have a family, and unfortunate enough not to be a banker.

Almost all the cheap seats have gone.

Would that I'd been strong enough to use the "sorry" word myself: "Sorry, kids: we couldn't afford for all of you to take the "B" class seats at the Athletics/BMX/Handball. Two of you will have to stay at home. The can-opener's in the drawer."

So the Games Organisers - perhaps - have been a victim of their own success, and the reams of advice clever journalists have dispensed as to how punters can plan their ticket-buying tactics. The system was confusing, to those of us who didn't graduate from MIT. But it's difficult to imagine there could have been a much fairer system, the odd slew of corporate tickets aside.

Which brings us back to Sebastian Coe and the offer of a harikiri sword.

Google's top ten informs us that he did also apologise back in 2004. That was when the woman on the door of the East India Club in London asked that he produce a photo ID. Difficult to see him having to apologise these days - at least for not being recognised.


  • Comment number 1.

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

  • Comment number 2.

    Please, please can we stop the damn moaning? The facts are quite simple. There was a massive demand for far too few tickets. No matter how you sold 'em, the vast majority of the public were always going to end up with bugger all, thus leaving them little to do but endlessly rant online. I am not wealthy Mr F and I have two sons. We were lucky in that we applied for 6 tickets between us and got them all. Not thousands of pounds worth but just over £500 we had been saving up since the announcement that London had won the games. We went for pricier seats in fringe sports that we personally happen to like. I was totally aware when I applied that it was a 'lottery'. Basically a lucky dip. Neither you nor I had the right to a ticket. Living within touching distance of the building site neither did nor should get you a better chance of a ticket. (I live near a port but I don't expect cheaper fruit or timber for the inconvenience of passing lorries) The Great British Public need to grow up and realise that success in life is seldom assured and winning a lottery never is!

  • Comment number 3.

    de rigueur, from what I have heard from all the people I know who applied for tickets you were very, very lucky! I applied for around £750 of tickets across five days/events and got nothing. Yes, we all knew it was a lottery, but it seems to me that certain aspects could have been much fairer. Apart from the complete lack of information about what the code letters actually mean, in terms of where you would be sitting and what sort of view you would get, why was there no cap on the number of tickets an individual applicant could receive like there is with other oversubscribed events? That way there would have been a lot more to go around and more people would have been happy. Instead, it was reported that one person applied for £26K worth and got £11K. How fair is that?!

  • Comment number 4.

    Its the same old story, genuine fans (there must be some) will find it hard to get tickets for the top events.
    But I bet you will see plenty of so called celebrities watching them....um... say no more.

  • Comment number 5.

    There is absolutely no way Baron Coe should have to apologise!!! He has been frank and honest throughout the whole process. I myself applied for around 12 events, but I have only been allocated one set (unfortunately not even in London itself - Old Trafford football before the opening ceremony!). Although disappointed, I understand completely that this was a possibility, as I knew before I made my application that the demand for the tickets available to the public would be massive. My only slight gripe is that I would have liked to have seen more free tickets available to the Armed Forces, and to our schools across the UK (distrabuted perhaps through some form of regional competitions? - perhaps this is already in place!?).

  • Comment number 6.

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

  • Comment number 7.

    The whole thing is a massive joke now and I disagree with some of the statements to stop moaning. Basically what happened was, the powers that be, that sold the tickets wanted to make sure they covered there backs by having this ridiculous system. This meant that the rich could afford thousands of pounds worth. I have read horrific stories that only the people who paid top dollar scoop many of the tickets as they had more chance. HOW IS THIS FAIR? One gentleman in a story has £3000 worth of tickets, how can he personally go to all those events. What should of happened was a certain amount to be applied for. I know there were caps, but they were ridiculously high. 4 seats per person. Sorted. We the tax payers were really excited about this event, and what happens, tickets go to corporate bankers and rich people. The peoples game - joke.

  • Comment number 8.

    Those complaining need to come up with a viable alternative. What were LOCOG expected to do? They can't reduce the allocation to the IOC 'family'. The price of the corporate sponsorship means x tickets to them - pretty well no control over that. They had to give a whole bunch to the travel firms etc. However it adds up they had a bunch of tickets for the public. They've at least tried to avoid a stampede on a first come first served on the hot tickets and tried to limit the touts - it looks like being much more successful than similar events.

    Lord Coe doesn't need to apologise - hats off to him and his team for trying to make this work and to him for being available to media to take the flack.

    I do feel sorry for the immediate families of the competitors who seem to be missing out - perhaps a chance for the corporates do get a bid of credit by inviting them in where possible.

  • Comment number 9.

    Lord Coe is the fall guy has he any further political aspirations I doubt it so he will take his seat at the Olympics and the event will be his reward.

    The shame is that we pay not once but twice for an event taxes & tickets (for those lucky enough to get them).

    It will be up to the British athletes to enrich the event as afterwards there will be no legacy as many children have been priced out and locked out.

  • Comment number 10.

    The system worked and can only be expected to be fair up to a certain point. Many people have said they have only got 1 session so will not travel to the Olympics. If everyone only got allocated 1 session, there would still be huge demand for the big sessins but the more 'fringe' sports would have lots more empty seats!

    I feel sorry for those real Olympic fans who want to experience the games... but most of these people will be up at 6 next Friday trying to get the cheap hockey or volleyball sessions... maybe not the dream event but still involved in the Olympics!

    I do not feel sorry for those who feel entitled to tickets...

    Also, ex Olympians and people with strong links to a particular sport can get tickets through our Olympic Association, whilst Olympians can get 2 tickets for family!

  • Comment number 11.

    I really don't understand some of the comments. How can it be that people were able to bid for 25 grand's worth of tickets? How can that be right?
    As someone else has said, a limit of four tickets per application should have been set.
    What will happen now is that those lucky enough to copped for tickets will flog them on Ebay for even more exorbitant amounts than face value.
    The tickets are a rip off and the allocation of them has been very poorly "organised".
    I cannot see how the bidding process could not have been better organised, was it naivety or incompetence, who can say?
    The greatest spectacle on earth? More like the greatest disaster on earth.

  • Comment number 12.

    The following points are all reasons for moaning:

    There should have been a cap on the number of tickets allocated (not bid for) to any one person - there's one for the second chancers so clearly that was a mistake they've tried to amend 2nd time around.

    Why try and win over the public by allocating 10,000 tickets to the armed forces? I, for one, cannot understand the reason behind this - they are doing a job just like everybody else. If you try and tell me they are saving lives and aiding the country, then what about the police, firemen, nurses, ambulance drivers, Drs, etc.? - Personally I think the country would have been served better by allocating those tickets to children through a schools ballot. They are the future of the country and attending events like this can be a life-long inspiration for some of them.

    And lastly, for Seb Coe to justify the coorporate allocation by saying they contribute over £1billion to the cause is a joke - the reason they are giving that money to the games is because it makes financial sense for their name/brand to be associated with the games, therefore that money is well spent in the returns they will gain post event. Long-term they will profit from the games therefore the organisers and consequently we, the public, owe them nothing.

    As you can see I am disgruntled, but why shouldn't I be - I look forward to the Olympics as much as I do the Football WC (I stayed up to watch the Sidney games each night in 2000) so when people like the chap who won 11k worth of tickets is paraded on the TV yet 2/3 of the bidders get nothing then I think something has gone seriously wrong with the process and I have a right to moan about it

  • Comment number 13.

    should he apologise?

    well actually he should resign, the whole matter has been a complete farce and as for the sale enxt week - forget it only rubbish is left (that's why perople never went for them in the first place)

  • Comment number 14.

    Erm....what should Coe have to apologise for? The fact that lots of people want to attend the Games? That's a good thing, isn't it? Let's face it, some people would think it was unfair unless they were given tickets for free to events they wanted to go to. This modern British phenomenon of whining until some figure in the public eye grovels is very unattractive.

    I think he's done a pretty good job so far. Who else would have taken on a job they were bound to get relentless flak for?

  • Comment number 15.

    From the moment the daft decision to even bit to host the Olympics was taken, it was obvious that despite all the propaganda, most of the British public would have no chance of getting anywhere nearthe actual events.
    There are 60,000 seats at the athletics stadium, by the time the corporate sponsors have taken a third, and another third have gone to the stuffed shirts at the top of the various sports, that leaves about 20k tickets for each of the big events.

    On the plus side, we can all still be a big part of the olympics. While we will only get to see the venues on TV, we can at least feel the satisfaction of picking up the bill for them. Our taxes will be paying for Lord Coe's vanity project for years to come.

  • Comment number 16.

    An apology would not be enough for alienating more than half the people involved in the shambolic ticketing process!
    Of course a ballot is the fairest way - and you don't need to be a genius to see how it could be run to everyone's best advantage - everyone goes into a ballot for their first choice event, then once all first choices are exhausted, everyone who was unsuccessful goes into a ballot for their second choice and so on - then at least almost everyone would have got something rather than a few people getting everything!

  • Comment number 17.

    He shouldn't just apologise, he should resign.

  • Comment number 18.

    Oh we do like a moan, imagine if the tickets hadn't all sold and the taxpayer would have to pick up the difference (the ticket money doesn't go into a black hole it pays for all stadiums and building work). No its probably not been done in the best way but tell me a process where demand massively outstrips supply that's fair and everyone is happy? Unfortunately expectations in the UK are at such a level that if by 23 you don't own your own house, not a company director & date a WAG or a male model or got Olympic 100m final tickets you've failed.

  • Comment number 19.

    anyone who thought...

    seb coe
    could run olympico
    had to know
    it would b no
    non fortissimo !!

  • Comment number 20.

    Oh how glad I stay in Scotland and can just laugh at this London/Cole joke! he he he

  • Comment number 21.

    If we had built a stadium that seat 6 million people then everything would have been OK.
    Sorry. I'm just having difficulty in taking those who think Coe should apologise for making a huge success from the olympic marketing effort. Despite the pointlessly stupid Olympic mascots and the frankly banal Olympic logo, its seems that other than that Coe and his team have surpassed expectations. Maybe he should have apologise for being overly successful.

    I expect the press were never going to be happy.

  • Comment number 22.

    @merryjimbhoy - Scottish taxpayers are paying just as much as English taxpayers for this farce. Expensive joke!

    @Charlie Cheesecake - Aye we all wanted tickets to the same event on the same day. Silly us for thinking we'd all get into the same stadium! :/

  • Comment number 23.

    Where on earth did anyone get the idea that the ticket money would pay for the stadiums etc.

    The UK tax payer is footing the bill this Blair ego trip. The Olympics lost their way years ago and have become an expensive farce. Parts of London will benefit from the this charade at the expense of the rest of the UK where local government has had budget cuts to pay for it.

    Why should anyone expect Coe to apologise. The whole process has been a farce and he is never convincing in interview. One of the biggest puzzles for me is what exactly has he done to warrant ennoblement.

    I know he won a few medals, but so have a number of others, many of whom have gone on to make a useful contribution to life but none of them have been granted such honour.

  • Comment number 24.

    I wonder how many genuine fans of the various sports got tickets for the particular events as opposed to the hangers on/bandwagon jumpers that want to be there so they can brag about it to their friends via social media websites, down the pub and at work etc.
    It was the same at Euro 96, Wembley two thirds full of people who never attended football matches, just wanted to be there because it was the uber cool thing at the time.
    It will be the same sort of people who scramble for tickets to Glastonbury and Wimbledon, they do it because they HAVE to be seen there.
    Tell me, why would so many people want to go to a handball event, or the weightlifting or synchronised swimming? when for the rest of the year they have not the slightest interest thus leaving the genuine fans who follow those events out in the cold.
    It smacks of desperation to be seen, scared stiff of missing something.
    I didn't apply as I have no interest in the majority of the events on show.I personally would feel embarrassed sat at a BMX biking event, or the Mens Hockey semi final, knowing that I am taking a seat of a genuine fan of that sport, someone who watches it week in and week out. After the Olympic are over will these same people be travelling up and down the country every week watching hockey or BMX? You bet your life they won't.
    Still, as long as they are seen there and can wear the T shirt, brag about it to their friends the next day and jump on the national hysteria bandwagon at the expense of genuine fans.

  • Comment number 25.

    Someone has called the 2012 Olympics "the people's games"... I supposed it is if the people they are referring to are Lord Coe's people, Lords, Ladies and the elite of British Society. Once again England has shown the world that only the upper classes in the UK matter.

    All of the tickets for the games should have been sold at the same price. The ticketing system was unfair, poorly organised and frankly a farce.

    I personally won't bother with the second round of tickets, instead I will try and find a nice cheap holiday abroad and leave the upper classes to their games, maybe if one of them feels like slumming it they can rent my house for £10,000 for the week!

    To answer your question, yes, Lord Coe should apologise, but pig flying will be an Olympic sport before he does!!!

  • Comment number 26.

    If he should apologise for anything it should be for the stupid Olympic badge that has been foisted onto the country. What was wrong with a Lion in a Union Flag or a Bulldog. I notice that Joe public were never asked about it. I also notice that they all have received a nice fat payrise for being on the committee. That is something I really don't agree with.

  • Comment number 27.

    Lesley at message 16 has it spot on and answers those above who seem to think there wasn't a fairer way of doing things. The whole thing has been a farce and the idea of it being 'the people's games' has been blown out of the water. No way should someone be able to get £11K of tickets when most people get nothing. It looks like it's going to be much more the 'prawn-sandwich eaters Games', if I may paraphrase Roy Keane.

    Personally I will still try and enjoy the Games, but feel they have been seriously tainted by this. I don't know if Coe should apologise for the fiasco iself so much as trying to justify it!

  • Comment number 28.

    Most of the moaning is based on muddled thinking or just wrong information.
    1 It was unfair because we didn't know the odds. This is true of every raffle you ever enter, even with the national lottery you know the odds of your numbers coming up but not how many people have bought the same numebrs as you.
    2 It is unfair because some people gambled more. This is again true of every lottery
    3 People should have been limited in the number of tickets. How would this work. the only transparent and fair way would be alphabetically. This would have done nothing for the numbers applying for athletics and cycling but stopped people applying for badminton and basketball
    4 It is wrong to take money and before people know what they have got. Comments on this site from people who say "I wanted sport A and applied for B and C as well, and I've got C which I did not really want. These idiots would have cancelled their bookings and caused administrative chaos.
    5 Sports people have no tickets. Some of the non public tickets have gone to sports associations. I believe I read on an earlier blog that for example the Hockey association has sent 2 tickets to each club in the uk. I suspect this is true of moth sports.
    6 The "German problem". Germany like any country had a limited allocation. They also assumed relatively low demand and so could use a normal sales. process. The same would apply in this country if the position was reversed. This is probably the first olympics where the idea of buying tickets overseas for an event in ones own country is possible for all. In the future it will be used by many peopl. A few years ago I did something similar. I wanted to run a big city marathon and applied for London but as iI knew it was a lottery I also applied for Paris which is much less popular and is on a first come first served basis and got in .
    7 The corporates. These are not as many as most people think. In addition have any correspondents noticed that by charging them an agreed premium 1000 or 2000 tickets are available for free lottery for members of the forces and several thousand free tickets are available for children who join sports introductory groups
    All in all I have yet to hear of any other way that woulod be as fair or efficient.

  • Comment number 29.

    Lord Coe may not need to apologise but someone does. How can it be right that from 80,000 tickets for the men's 100m final only 30,000 are available for the British public? According to today's Guardian 30,000 go to sponsors, hospitality, international sales, sporting federations, media and IOC officials. Not sure about the other 20k! See here for more info: https://bit.ly/m6Q4Pu

    As a London resident in an Olympic borough who failed to get any tickets for me or my family, I find this very troubling. Not sure I'll be with you for Friday's scrabbling dawn chorus!

  • Comment number 30.

    He doesn't need to apologise for many of the things people think he should apologose for but yes he does need to apologise. For raising peoples hopes and expectations if nothing else.
    It's a victim of it's own success. From very early on they were pushing the fact that you could go to the Olympics for only £20 and I'm betting a lot of people only went for the lowest priced tickets because of that and they are the ones most oversubscribed.
    There will be a lot of people who feel bad that they were 'promised' the experience but they won't get to have it come next year. And that is what needs to be apologised for.

    Maybe he has more to apologise for though? How many tickets is he getting? Did he go through the same process as the rest of us?

  • Comment number 31.

    "But it's difficult to imagine there could have been a much fairer system, the odd slew of corporate tickets aside."

    That is simply factually incorrect.

    If they had followed some simple principles used in the eg the Wimbledon ballot, the situation would not have been as badly distorted. It would also have been a transparent process.

    a) There should have been a limit per household. b) And there should have been no auction process which unduly favoured those with big bank balances. c) Legal entities should have been excluded. One council used its collective purchasing power (ie our tax money) to buy 520 tickets!!

    Wimbledon gets this right. Surely the UK Olympics Committe could and should have got it right too.

    And now there is no way to correct it.

    Metaphorically, heads have to roll for this. Whoever designed the system, and whoever approved it (including Coe) have to now resign.

  • Comment number 32.

    I think the major problem with the whole process was the lack of transparency of exactly how many tickets were available to the public, particularly the cheaper ones. When this all comes clean in the wash I bet we will find that there were very few cheap tickets available and I think that is why so many people are annoyed, people feel that they have been led down the garden path. This was supposed to be a games that left a legacy and inspired kids, it won't if they can't go and see it!!

    Another key point is I have never watched an Olympic games where all the morning/early afternoon sessions at the Athletics are full. In most cases the heats take place in front of no more than a half full stadium. What will really nark me is if that happens next year and loads of people who would love to be there are denied the opportunity, I doubt very much that all of these corporate and "Olympic Family" tickets will be used in these sessions so it would be nice to see them using a Wimbledon style process where people can buy those seats up if the ticket holders don't show or leave.

  • Comment number 33.

    What LOCOG should apologise for is the fact that two months after applications closed they still haven't told anybody what tickets they have got. The only e-mail I have received from them stated that I had got some or all of the tickets I applied, and it is only because my Visa card is registered online that I know only £86 was taken from my account and that only 5% of my application was successful. Two of the tickets are for a friend and his wife who didn't get any tickets and therefore he intends to apply again for tickets in the second phase, however until he knows which event I have tickets for it is difficult for him to know which events to apply for, and avoid a clash.

  • Comment number 34.

    Why should 10,000 tickets be set side for the troops? why not doctors, nurses, teachers,carers, the unemployed etc ect etc?


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