Trouble with the tickets
It’s easy to forget the level of concern about the British ability to deliver major projects back in 2005 when the 2012 Olympics was so spectacularly won for London. Remember disaster of Wembley Stadium? Massive overspend and not much change from a billion pounds. What about the ignominy of Picketts Lock? We won the right to host the World Athletics Championship, then shamefacedly handed it back in our failure to deliver the venue.
Wind forward to 2012 and plain truth is that London has absolutely smashed the big task of building the Olympic stadia. In this respect all is well, and a national insecurity righted. But in the absence of any lingering concern about the readiness of the Olympic venues attention, rightly, has turned to less tangible matters. Will it be secure? Can there be a justification for the Zil lanes? And then there is ticketing.
Tickets matter because they are our gateway to any participation beyond the confines of our sitting rooms. At the beginning all looked rosy. We were sold well-crafted PR lines about tickets costing twenty pounds and twelve pence, pay-your-age for kids and widespread access for school children. What we got instead is an obscure system that has damaged public confidence and eroded the idea that the Games are open to everyone.
LOCOG appeared to have made two major errors. First, they severely underestimated demand for tickets. Second, they opted for an allocation system that didn’t prioritise the widest possible distribution. So some people got twenty tickets, while millions received none at all. These two errors compounded and left an army of previous enthusiasts baying for justice. Suspicions are widely held that too many tickets have been held back, given to corporate sponsors or are reserved for the masses of press and dignitaries. There is a simple answer, asserted clearly and firmly by Baroness Doocey on the London Assembly. LOCOG should come clean and publish a full breakdown of sales, prices and recipients. If they have nothing to hide then what is there to lose?
This matters because we risk being left with a bitter taste in our mouths once the spectacle and celebration of the Games is over. We need to know that we all had a fair crack at getting a seat to the best events and not that the lion’s share went to the usual corporate and vested interests. Anything less than this and we could see our bitterness poison our view of the other, largely laudable, efforts to secure a lasting legacy for London and the UK. LOCOG should act now and publish full details of what's been sold so far and which tickets are still to play for when they go back on sale in April. They need a big PR win to regain some of the public trust that's been lost.