LOCOG Struggles to Fill Seats Fairly at the £2 billion London Games

Image from huffingtonpost.co.uk

Since the first Games organized by the International Olympic Committee in 1896, the Olympiad has been bringing the world’s nations together. Then, 14 nations competed. Today, the Games feature competitors from 205 nations. Billions of people root for their country’s athletes in the comfort of their own homes but more devoted fans make the trek to the host nation to witness the events live. Of the nearly nine million tickets available for this year’s Olympic Games, 75% went to the public in Great Britain, 12% were sold internationally, 8% went to sponsors or stakeholders of the event and 5% were reserved for companies providing hospitality services. The process of acquiring tickets from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) for the most popular events was complex. In the first round of ticket sales, 1.9 million people applied for the tickets they desired, with more than half of them requesting tickets for athletics (track & field) events. The rest of the process wasn’t much smoother. Second chance sales were open to those who couldn’t get tickets in the first round and a site for those who wanted to sell their tickets to others was created, only to crash and force LOCOG to buy some 100,000 back. Tickets for ten sports were sold out by 8am of the first day of sale.

Not only were tickets difficult to acquire, but they were in some cases prohibitively expensive. LOCOG sought to raise 25% of its £2 billion budget through ticket sales, but creating a barrier for those who wish to attend is hardly in the spirit of the Olympic Games. LOCOG’s strategy was commendable, as the organization reserved around 1.3 million tickets for children and the elderly, who paid under £20.  LOCOG also stated that 90% of the tickets cost £100 or less. Some events like the marathon, triathlon and road cycling are free since they are held on public roads. But the most popular events have staggering prices. Tickets for the opening ceremony cost as much as $3000 and tickets for the men’s 100m final, the most popular athletics event, cost $1140. These events are held at the Olympic Stadium and the huge sums are undoubtedly prices for prime seats but in a venue of 80,000, it’s hardly desirable to sit all the way in the back especially if you’ve made an intercontinental journey to see the Games.

Embarrassingly for London, some seats have been left unfilled. An article by CNN’s Tim Hume reveals that some premium seats for officials, athletes, sponsors and the media were left empty in events like swimming, gymnastics, tennis and volleyball, leaving London no choice but to fill them with the soldiers that were brought in to secure the Olympic Park. LOCOG’s current effort to fill the seats has revolved around offering them to the public (1,000 gymnastics tickets were sold overnight for premium seats), giving the tickets to students in the area or upgrading the tickets of people with poorer views to premium ones. An issue also arose during doubleheaders of hockey, basketball and other team sports, where spectators left after their teams played. A resale scheme has been implemented so there are enough viewers for the second game of the doubleheader. Some, like the chairman of the British Olympic Association, Colin Moynihan, recommend a policy in which the premium seats can be filled if left vacant for the first thirty minutes of an event. Tim Hume also notes that sponsors like GE, Visa, P&G and Coca Cola, some of the companies accused of leaving seats empty, have made public statements that their seats were indeed filled. Hume quotes the British culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said, “We want those tickets to be available for members of the public… I was at the Beijing Games, in 2008… and one of the lessons that we took away from that, is that full stadia create the best atmosphere. It’s best for the athletes, it’s more fun for the spectators.”

Given the fact that only about 2.25 million tickets were available for spectators outside of the host nation (around 11,000 tickets per nation if distributed evenly), there are undoubtedly American spectators in London who’ve been affected by the exclusivity of Olympics tickets. Of course, we can support our athletes by shouting at our TVs but what’s better than watching Kobe Bryant, Ryan Lochte or the duo of Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh go for gold in a stadium full of screaming spectators?







  1. very interesting

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