During the London 2012 ticketing process, there were 20 million applications for 6.6 million tickets. Such oversubscription has fuelled the main pre-Olympic complaint in Britain: the ticketing lottery, and the lack of tickets available for the common person. Especially in London itself, where despite (fairly minor) hikes in council tax to pay for the Games’ construction, residents were given no special access to tickets.
In addition, several gaffes have raised hackles again among fans. Most recently, a human error led to 10,000 tickets for synchronized swimming being accidentally oversold. While in January, the much-vaunted launch of a website where fans could resell unwanted tickets crashed for over a week.
Closer to the Games, however, corporate sponsorship could prove the most inflammatory element. Already, it’s been revealed that in the Velodrome – the venue for Britain’s brightest medal hopes – a mind-boggling 95% of the allocation (90,000 tickets) were reserved for sponsors. In late November, an embarrassing lack of interest saw over 1.5million football tickets that were previously reserved for sponsors go back on sale to the general public. Worse, it was revealed LOCOG have gagged their Olympic sponsors to prevent them from revealing how many tickets they purchased under their contractual agreements.
As a side note, the official Olympic merchandise has also come under fire for being too expensive. On sale in 12 shops throughout the capital since April 2010, the collection includes a basic Adidas polo shirt at £28 ($44), a child’s jacket at £40 ($62) and cuddly versions of the two mascots Wenlock and Mandeville for £45 ($70). Comparisons have been made with the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, where official merchandise was sold at the events for twice the price as online. An angry backlash eventually forced a rethink there – could the same happen in London?
- As the reality of exclusion bites during the Games – as well as the possibility of empty, unused seats during key events, could this lead to the beginning of a dynamic ticketing movement?
- Could these issues – coupled with, for example, special Olympic traffic lanes for sponsors – lead to a cultural backlash against the “corporate class”?
- Similarly, the wider availability of tickets through non-lottery agencies in Germany and Poland has added to perception that the British “sense of fair play” has been taken for a ride. Is there the potential for xenophobia against foreign ticket holders?