Olympic ticket scam a write-off

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER - Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics are writing off most of the $2 million lost in a ticket scam.

Latvians Arturs Abroskins and Andris Stuks were convicted of fraud over $5,000 after stolen Visa card numbers were used to buy thousands of Olympic tickets online in February. It was the biggest-known crime of the Vancouver Olympics.

VANOC talks with Visa and an insurer led to recovery of about $500,000.

“These financial statements assume that it's gone,” chief financial officer John McLaughlin said after VANOC released its post-Games financial report on Friday.

“If we get nothing, there's no change; if we get something more, it's effectively a win.”

VANOC’s original ticket inventory was 1.6 million but it reported selling 1.49 million to meet its $260.3 million target.

Revenue was boosted through the first official ticket resale website in Olympic history.

Prices were not capped on the so-called Fan-to-Fan Marketplace, but VANOC took a 20% cut of each transaction. Payments to sellers were delayed because of the ticket fraud investigation.

Hockey accounted for more than 40% of tickets and revenue -- 642,223 tickets for games at Rogers Arena and Thunderbird Arena brought in $111.9 million. The 87,769 opening and closing ceremony tickets sold were worth $61.5 million. The report said 296,489 victory ceremony tickets were sold or given away, but a revenue figure was not included. More than 460,000 tickets were sold for the remaining events.

At Salt Lake 2002, hockey was the hottest ticket, but it accounted for under a quarter of the 1,525,118 tickets. Salt Lake organizers counted US$183 million in revenue, which was then worth Cdn$291.8 million.

Vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade said VANOC would issue no more information on ticket sales. She said there is no indication of “public appetite for that level of detail.”

At least $187.8 million came from federal and B.C. taxpayers to help VANOC balance its $1.884 billion budget.

The report did not show how much governments spent on Games tickets or sponsorship fees. The Games were $250 million more expensive than forecast in the 2007 business plan. Transportation costs alone skyrocketed by $50 million.

“Things actually became, in many cases, more expensive which was a bit of a surprise to many of us,” McLaughlin said of the recession’s impacts.

VANOC revealed it paid a nominal $10 to take over David Atkins Enterprises after the Australian company produced Vancouver 2010’s $79.1 million ceremonies.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

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