With just 100 days to go to the London Olympics, you might be interested to read this quote about the interaction of sport and commercial interests:
“Of course sponsors have to receive value for money, but sport has to remain sport, a concept rooted on the track and not in the balance sheet. It must not become another consumer-entertainment package. In all sports we have to protect the fundamentals of sportsmanship, self-determination of the individual and the pursuit of excellence free of commercial expediency, and as Voltaire said ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’.”
You might be surprised to discover that the person who expressed these forthright opinions is Lord Coe, the Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG).
Seb Coe expressed these views many years before he took on the role of leading the organisation responsible for preparing and staging this year’s Games. In fact, they were the concluding words in his book ‘Running Free’, published in 1981, shortly after his gold medal success at the Moscow Olympics. Yet despite being expressed 31 years ago, these views are as relevant today as they were then.
I am a huge enthusiast for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They will be great for London and for the UK. Inevitably some mistakes have been made over the last seven years, but overall the achievements are already immense. But despite my strong overall support, one serious disappointment is the secrecy over the allocation of Olympic tickets.
We know that LOCOG has some broad principles about how the tickets are sold on average across a huge range of events but crucial information on the seven million Olympic and Paralympic tickets already sold is being with-held. We simply do not know, out of the tickets available for every separate event and at the various different prices, which have been sold to the general public and which have been allocated to sponsors.
LOCOG has made numerous excuses for this secrecy. First, it claimed there were data protection reasons for not publishing the information, but this has proved to be totally false. Then it claimed that publishing information before the final tickets had been sold would only be confusing to the public – exposing a most patronising view of the public LOCOG is supposed to serve. Most recently, Lord Coe even argued that publishing the information would distract his staff from their day-to-day activities.
LOCOG maintains that it will eventually publish a breakdown of ticket allocation. However, publishing these details just before the Games start will be far too late as by then no changes can be made. We need to have a picture of how the tickets already sold have been allocated, to ensure that the overall process is as fair and reasonable as possible.
Soon, four million more Olympic tickets will go on sale. Before this happens, I urge Lord Coe to remember what he said more than 30 years ago and reconsider LOCOG’S secrecy over the allocation of tickets.
Eternal vigilance and secrecy do not go hand in hand.