Tuesday, June 07, 2011

false start

Responding to the disclosure that 55% of people who entered the first ballot for Olympics 2012 tickets didn’t get any at all, the chief executive of London 2012 looked forward to the second ballot and said with a broad and nauseating smile on his wide-eyed face "we want to make sure that people who were disappointed first time around have the best chance of getting tickets."

But he didn’t finish the sentence. The missing words at the end are “.... for events they don’t wish to see at a price they don’t wish to pay”. His evangelical expression deepened when he proudly boasted that 1 in 8 children at London schools will be given a free ticket. He really knows how to rub it in. Those children will be alive the next time the Olympics circus comes to town in this country; most of those who entered the lucky dip, with a commitment to pay hundreds or thousands of pounds to the cause, probably won’t.

The fact is the Olympics bosses have made a hash of it, and though it will never be admitted, they know it and it is written all over their faces. They set up a ticket allocation system so flawed that it beggars belief. Instead of having a mechanism by which each applicant gets tickets in proportion to the total number available and to the amount of money each was prepared to spend, they have enabled 810,000 lucky applicants to share 6,600,000 tickets, that is on average over 8 tickets per person. An average of 4 tickets for all applicants would have been much fairer.

Too many tickets have been set aside for wealthy sponsoring corporations whose suited executives won’t know too much about where they are, what sport it is or which countries are competing; talking business deals and drinking copious amounts of alcohol, savouring the atmosphere and the status of just ‘being there’. While the trusting British public were spending hours planning their applications and filling out the online forms, having been told that this was the only way to obtain tickets, websites in Germany and Denmark were selling them to anyone who asked.

The ballot winners woke up one morning to find that an arbitrary sum had been deducted from their credit or debit cards, without knowing whether it had gone to buy tickets for the 100 metres final, the handball heats, or to a fraudster who had managed to hack into their account. At a time when we are continually warned to take the utmost care over online transactions, the Olympics authorities had the bizarre idea of just taking the money without even a mention to the account holder.

So the numerous ballot losers will miss out on the crush at the Olympic Park, the smell of expensive ‘gourmet’ fast food, the tedious security checks, the long queue for a train home and the people directly in front blocking their view by standing up to get another beer just as Jessica Ennis crosses the finishing line. They will console themselves by spending the money they have saved on a new, large screen, high definition TV that will provide them with the best seat in the house, and still have change. Don’t worry we’ll get the World Cup in ......oh......no we won’t.

Sebastian Coe frequently reminds us that the organisation of the Games is a marathon and not a sprint but for nearly 1 million empty-handed, ticketless sports lovers, it’s a false start and they have been disqualified.



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