Athletes' parents turned away in chaos over London 2012 Olympics tickets
A FRESH ticketing row has enveloped London 2012 Olympic organisers as angry parents of athletes are turned away at Games venues.
Parents and friends of Swedish and Singaporean swimmers as well as a host of other countries have been refused access into the aquatics centre over the past two nights, missing seeing their loved ones compete, while other parents have had hours of angst trying to sort tickets at the last minute.
Adding to their woes were the pictures of empty seats in prime positions.
The issue hasn't been confined to the aquatics centre. Parents have missed tennis matches at Wimbledon and only been able to get into Eton Dorney for the rowing and Excel for the boxing after fraught negotiations.
Gunilla Lindberg, a senior International Olympic Committee member intimately familiar with the London preparations as she was also on the London Coordination Commission, said the issue was chaotic and distracting for many athletes.
''It is so confusing for everyone. Parents keep calling the athletes, no one knows where the tickets are and it is not very good preparation for the athletes to be so stressed about it,'' she said.
The parents and friends ticket programme entitles every athlete to buy two tickets for each session in which they compete. But the Ticketmaster ticketing system used by Locog to administer the programme has not been able to update in time for each final - detaling which athletes are eligible to puchase the tickets.
Then the distribution of the tickets has, in the words of one team chef de mission become '' a complete nightmare''.
Locog has changed the system, telling the foreign teams that tickets for the programme could be picked up at venues, but the officials at the venue have not been informed and have refused the parents admission.
''This is chaos, no one knows about the system,'' said Lindberg. ''But I don't know how it is going to be sorted as it is so complex and this is the first games this programme has been used.''
The International Olympic Committee has been so concerned about the issue it has been repeatedly raised at the early morning joint briefing with Locog and government.
This morning at the chefs de mission meeting at the Olympic Village it was a major topic of debate.
The IOC told the Telegraph: ''This is the first time that this particular service has been offered to athletes and it comes on top of all the other ways that athletes can see the Games. It has been working for a number of months for those that pre-qualified and clearly, with such a new system, especially during the Games, when the turnaround time may only be a matter of hours, there may be challenges but LOCOG is working to fine tune the services with the NOCs and ATRs.''
Earlier Tessa Jowell called on Lord Coe to use his "muscle" to resolve the empty seat issue at the Olympics today.
Tessa Jowell, the shadow Olympics minister, has called on Games organiser Lord Coe to ensure sports fans are given tickets for empty venue seats 'today'.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, Mrs Jowell said: “The IOC have got to be part of the solution to this particular problem, these accredited seats remaining empty.
"However, we can’t wait for that medium-term resolution. We’ve got to get people into those seats today tomorrow and the next day and I think the measures Seb Coe announced yesterday go quite a long way in relation to that, together with the recycling of tickets for people who are already in the park.
"This is very important for the confidence of the British public and what I’m struck by is that the sponsors certainly don’t seem to be the bad guys in this at.
"They have really responded to public expectation that these are not fat cat games but two of our major companies – the majority of tickets have gone to staff or who are active in their local community, or they’ve gone to people beyond the board level of the sponsors and I’m sure that is a more general theme.
"We need the federations to be as responsive as many of the sponsors.”
She added that Lord Coe could exercise “muscle” in facing up to the federations not using their tickets.
“He’s done a fabulous job in leading these Olympic Games, being the face of the Olympic Games. He’s highly respected in every part and now is the time when he can exercise maximum muscle in saying to these federations: ‘Look your reputation is on the line here and it’s not fair to the British many of whom have not been able to get to the Games.”
Mrs Jowell said that the London 2012 Games would be among the most "democratic" ever to take place, with the public truly taking part in events such as the mass bell ring which was held on the morning of the Opening Ceremony.