Fri, September 20, 2013

Olympic organizers halfway home

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency


Paul Deighton, Chief Executive of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) addresses the media at a recent press conference. (AFP)


LONDON - Olympics organizers are conceding they have legal competition for ticket sales.

Companies authorized to resell tickets in the European Union have set-up their own box offices in London to serve EU residents. Games rules allow them to charge a 20% premium, but fans eager to get tickets can use this route to bypass the Ticketmaster system.

“We have urged them to return (tickets) to us so we can offer them to the British public where we think the demand is strongest and can do that online, which is the best way, and we have already sold tens of thousands that way through the international returns,” said Games chief executive Paul Deighton.

Officials claims the overall spectator count hit 5.1 million Saturday, though the total includes estimates for attendance at free events such as the triathlon and road cycling. The Saturday count included 719,000 spectators at venues. Another 231,000 came to Olympic Park and 32,000 tickets were sold through official Games channels.

Deighton, who was summarizing the Games’ at the halfway point, was adamant that sponsors and hospitality partners “are absolutely filling their seats.” Empty seats, he said, come from other accredited client groups, who take up 5 to 15% of ticket inventory.

Empty seats also happen because parts of some obstructed view sections are not sold. Soldiers, Games volunteers and local schoolchildren and teachers have been pushed into sitting duty for some events with large swaths of empty seats.

Deighton said Londoners have responded to calls for them to alter their commuting schedules. Passenger journeys on the Underground subway have exceeded 4.25 million a day. The toughest decision, he said, was to call in the army last month to compensate for a lack of hiring by private security contractor G4S.

"I think everybody's experience in terms of, firstly, the effective security in place but, secondly, the customer experience, wonderful service has demonstrated we did the right thing to fix that," Deighton said.

But how has that affected the overall budget to host the Games (which is estimated to be 11 billion pounds)?

“Budget is fine,” is all Deighton said.

The Games, which opened July 27, close on Aug. 12.