Monday 23 October 2017

3,000 Olympics tickets put back up for sale

Ellen Branagh

SOME 3,000 Olympics tickets from international sports federations have been "put back in the pot" and sold to the public, Locog said today.

The move came after the sights of swathes of empty seats at events in the first days of the Games prompted anger from people who had struggled to get tickets.

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe had promised to urge international federations to make sure they used areas reserved for them to avoid embarrassment.

Jackie Brock-Doyle, Locog's director of communications, said they had been able to get back 3,000 and re-sell them - a move they will do each day to make sure as many seats as possible are filled.

"We talked to the International Federations yesterday, we were able to put back into the pot for sale around 3,000 tickets last night, they have all been sold," she said.

"That includes about 600 for the gymnastics event today and we're going to do that on a day-to-day basis."

She said they were talking to accredited groups, including broadcast media and seeing if they can release some tickets.

"Where we can we are going to release those the night before and put them up for sale.

"Three thousand went up for sale last night and they have all been sold this morning."

Ms Brock-Doyle said the number of seats given up depended on the sport, and in some situations also depended on security arrangements, but in those cases, they had contingency plans involving giving seats to troops or students and teachers.

"Everybody is giving up what they can and it is session by session so some sessions, for example of beach volleyball we have had returns of probably about 300-400 this morning, but for the evening sessions and the afternoon sessions it's less.

"We are literally doing it session-by-session."

Asked if they had "got it wrong", she said: "We are trying everything we can to make sure that those accredited seats are filled where we can.

"There are operational issues that make it difficult to fill some of those seats which is why we are making them available to the troops and to the teachers and the children.

"We had a plan in place for the teachers and the children over a year ago that we employ. There's 150 children and teachers on the park today, that's only for the park, we will increase that to about 300-400 tomorrow.

"We really are doing the best we can, but it's not an exact science as we saw with swimming last night and basketball and the American match yesterday."

British Shadow Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell, who held the post in 2005 when Britain won the right to hold the Games, today demanded urgent action to end the issue.

She told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We've got to get people into those seats today, tomorrow and the next day.

"I think the measures Seb Coe announced yesterday go quite a long way into 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."

About 50 seats previously classed as restricted view and unoccupied during the first two days of the badminton at Wembley Arena were filled today by members of the RAF and Army security teams.

Apart from two other rows of restricted-view seats, the 4,800-capacity venue has been close to full for all sessions.

Sir Clive Woodward, Team GB's deputy chef de mission, told the BBC: "I was in Beijing and, to put it in perspective, I was going to tennis matches and hockey matches in Beijing where there was nobody there."

He added: "You can see it doesn't look right, but I feel a bit for Locog as well because they're trying to keep everyone happy.

"I can see how it looks and you feel for the people at home who'd love to be there.

"I know they're working on it. As we speak now they're trying to work out ways of trying to fix it."

Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall in south London and Labour's former sports minister, told BBC radio: "I think what they have done is probably allocated too many to each international Olympic committee and that could be changed pretty quickly.

"The important thing is to get the seats filled with people, but if we can get some youngsters who would never have had the chance to get in, let's go for it."

Today, Ms Brock-Doyle said they had received a total of 3,000 tickets to put back in the public pot - including around 600 gymnastics tickets, and between 500 and 700 for beach volleyball.

She said there were also some for water polo, more than 100 for swimming, and some for handball and equestrian events.

"It's not an exact science here, we are working within the numbers that each of the accredited areas look at," she said.

She added that they had done "a lot" already to try to avoid the issue, including getting tickets back from press, and said there had been a 15% reduction in accredited seating compared with the Beijing Games.

"We feel we have done quite a lot on here already and will continue to do it.

"It's not an exact science and I think yesterday really showed that with one basketball match that was completely oversubscribed and the swimming, and then on the other side there are other areas.

"We're really putting our efforts into those areas, but we have done a lot to reclaim where we can accredited seating."

Asked if people had been priced out of the market when it came to tickets, she said: "We decide the pricing structure here within the organising committee and I think the speed with which the tickets on sale for the public have gone demonstrates that the pricing was right.

"Where we have issues at the moment is making sure that the accredited seats are filled with people.

"If you go into the venues it is jam-packed, the British spectators in there are brilliant, everyone's talking about how great the atmosphere is and they're full, so, no, I think the pricing is right."

Prime Minister David Cameron said he thought Locog were "doing a good job of getting on top of that particular problem".

He was briefed on the latest situation by a senior Games official at this morning's daily meeting of the Government's Olympic Cobra contingency committee.

Downing Street said the empty seats were "disappointing" but insisted it was a matter for Locog which was "looking at all the options".

Asked if that meant the Government had no power to intervene, a Number 10 spokeswoman said: "We have influence; it's the Government."

The spokeswoman said Mr Cameron had been "very impressed" with the Games so far.

"There are bound to be challenges throughout the Games due to their scale and complexity but he was very impressed with the progress so far, very impressed with the opening ceremony," she said.

"He was very pleased at how positively received the Olympics had been around the world and he hoped that would continue."

Resale tickets are available for sale online only, and box offices are only for collecting tickets, the press briefing was told.

Ms Brock-Doyle said there had been "lots of conversations over the years" with each of the accredited groups, and where they had been able to take tickets back from people such as the Press, they had.

She also told the briefing at the Olympic Park that no international sports federations had "just said no" to requests for accredited tickets to be given back.

"Everybody gave a little bit back, we probably got the most back from gymnastics," she said.

The Games have also been threatened with further embarrassment amid reports that some athletes' relatives did not get to see them compete because of confusion over a system which allows each Olympian to buy two tickets for friends and family for each session in which they are competing.

Locog director of sport Debbie Jevans said: "On the athletes' friends and family, it's the first year that this has been put in place and there has been enormous demand, which is fantastic.

"In response to that demand, we have opened an extra window for it. There's an extra facility just north of the Athletes' Village where tickets can be collected from, and if the gap is less than four hours, ie you go from a heat to a final, the athlete can go and get those tickets on site for their friend and family.

"We've taken note of the first few days, we've discussed it with the various chefs, indeed as recently as with the chef de mission this morning, and all those processes are being put in place for today."

British Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told BBC Radio 4's The World At One a possible 30 minute rule was being considered.

He said: "Well that's what we're looking at doing. We're looking at whether we are able to do it, but we are hosting this event under a contractual arrangement that we have with the International Olympic Committee and sports federations and so we do have to respect what we've agreed to contractually in order to get London to host the Games."

He added: What we're saying to the IOC and to the international sports federations is if you're not going to use them, could we have as many possible back because of course we've got lots of members of the public who would dearly love to go.

"We want to be completely upfront with the public, this is a negotiation, we don't have a right to demand these back.

"In fact contractually these seats do belong to the international sports federations and to the IOC, but we got 3,000 back last night, including 600 for the gymnastics."

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