Dee Doocey writes… Getting Olympic ticketing right

At one minute to midday on Tuesday 15 March, applications for tickets for the 2012 London Olympics will open.

Over the past twenty years, ticketing arrangements for every Games have created bad headlines. Controversy has ranged from empty seats to excessive prices, ticket touting and counterfeit tickets.

It’s a tough challenge to get the right balance between maximising income to cover the costs and ensuring that each event is accessible – especially as the actual running of the Games by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic & Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is paid for entirely by non-public money.

As ticketing is such a key issue, I was delighted this week to present the London Assembly’s latest report ‘Just the ticket’. This demonstrates that Games organisers have struck a difficult balance between raising money and making tickets affordable.
For any readers of Liberal Democrat Voice seeking tickets, I have two important pieces of consumer advice.

Dee Doocey at London Olympics stadiumFirst, from next Tuesday until 26th April, members of the public can apply for tickets. For any event where demand for tickets exceeds supply, there will be a ballot to ensure the fairest possible allocation of tickets. But tickets will not be sold on a first-come-first-served basis so there is no need to rush out of a meeting at midday on Tuesday to apply! Applications for Paralympic Games tickets will open on 9th September this year and will follow a similar sales process.

Second, strong anti-fraud measures are in place. For UK residents, the only legitimate way to purchase a ticket for an Olympic event is via the London 2012 website. Anyone else claiming to sell tickets is fraudulent; if you come across any of the bogus websites that are bound to spring up, please report them to the police.

The organisers have made great strides in providing affordable tickets. 2.5 million tickets will cost £20 or less and a further 1 million will cost £30 or less. In addition, 75% of tickets will be allocated for the public to buy, with the remainder being allocated to athletes, sponsors, Olympic and public bodies. This contrasts with just 56% of tickets that went on sale at last year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver and 68% at the Manchester Commonwealth Games.

One other detail the organisers have already got right is that people will not face an additional booking fee. Another piece of good news is that LOCOG has reconsidered its policy on companion tickets for disabled spectators who would be unable to attend the Games without a carer. LOCOG’s definition of a ‘carer’ was initially restricted solely to people looking after a wheelchair user. With the support of many disability organisations I successfully negotiated with LOCOG a fairer policy and I am delighted that LOCOG has now agreed to provide up to 6,400 carer tickets for those with high dependency needs. A system is being worked out to ensure this concession is not abused, and to establish what validation will be required.

Yet there are some battles still to be fought, especially relating to the 25% of tickets that will not go on public sale. It is vital that the Games are not tainted by the sight of politicians and public officials attending numerous events with tickets funded by central or local taxation. For example, 9,000 tickets have been reserved for sale to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), 2,000 to the Mayor of London and 100 to every London Borough.

We believe that public confidence in the Games will be undermined if an unreasonable number of tickets are made available to VIPs at the expense of the general public. So we have written to the DCMS, the Mayor and all London boroughs asking them to show restraint when bidding for tickets and calling on them to ensure there is transparency and accountability for each ticket they receive. We have suggested that they publish a register, showing who the tickets have been allocated to, why the allocation has been made and how they were funded.

Now if we can get this right, we really will be on track for an Olympics we can be proud of.

The London Assembly’s report on Olympic ticketing can be downloaded at http://www.london.gov.uk/publication/just-ticket.

Dee Doocey is Liberal Democrat London Assembly Olympics Spokesperson.

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2 Comments

  • As has been well reported in the London media, the LibDem-Tory partnership in LB Redbridge is the first London Council to decide not to take up the offer of 100 reserved tickets. I believe Bromley is doing the same.

    This was agreed by the three Group Leaders and we all had the same view.

    We could not justify using taxpayers money – potentially 30,000 per Council hence nearly 1 million across London – to pay for councillors to go to the games or to jump the queue on the public ballot.

    Londoners have already paid hugely towards the games through the Council Tax levy over several years, and we did not see why they should pay another million for their councillors to go for free. Every ticket returned is another chance for someone in the ballot.
    Every London Council Leader will have the same decision to take by 31 March and I hope that LibDem cllrs, activists, and interested residents will question your Councils to see what decisions they are taking.

  • I think the deal with VISA to accept only VISA bank cards should be investigated, and deals of this kind (i.e. agreeing with certain card providers to refuse to process payments from any others) should be outlawed. But then again, this is but one example of how the Olympics organization bends over backwards to appease sponsors to the detriment of customers. For something that is publicly funded, this is a disgrace. Sponsors should not be allowed to run the show.

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