Monday, July 30, 2012

Get in your Olympic seat within 30 minutes or lose them: Jeremy Hunt unveils plan to ensure sell-out crowds

Spectators who fail to take their seats within 30 minutes of the start of an Olympic event could lose them under plans being considered by Games organisers.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the new rule was being explored after many events began in half-empty stadia as sponsors and delegates failed to show up.

In an attempt to pack venues, London 2012 organisers Locog have taken some 3,000 Olympics tickets from international sporting federations and put them 'back in the pot' to be bought by members of the public.

Locog, which has already drafted in troops, teachers and schoolchildren to fill gaps in the crowds, hopes to continue offering tickets for resale as the Games progress.

Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's The World At One that 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 (IOC) 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.'

Mr Hunt 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.'

David Cameron said he 'totally shared the frustration' of spectators who failed to get tickets only to see hundreds of seats set aside for accredited officials remain empty as they did not show up.

'To be frank there will always be some empty seats because you have to make some available to the teams of athletes, sportsmen and officials from around the world,' the Prime Minister said.

'There will always be a slight problem but I think Locog are doing everything they can to make sure those empty seats are used where possible.'

Mr Cameron was speaking as the row over ticketing at the Olympics escalated after it emerged parents of athletes are being turned away from half-empty Games venues.

Parents and friends of swimmers are said to have been refused entry to the Aquatics Centre, while relatives of tennis players have been unable to see matches at Wimbledon.

Similar problems have been reported at Eton Dorney for the rowing and the ExCel boxing venue, where parents have only been allowed entry after drawn-out negotiations.

Details of the mix-up emerged as organisers began handing school children front-row seats in a desperate bid to fill venues.

A senior IOC member, Gunilla Lindberg, complained that the issue had become chaotic and distracting for many athletes.

Relatives and friends of Swedish and Singapore swimmers are known to have been refused entry, but the problem is thought to have affected competitors from other countries as well.

'It is so confusing for everyone,' Ms Lindberg told the Daily Telegraph. 'Parents keep calling the athletes, no one knows where the tickets are and it is not very good preparation for the athletes to be so stressed about it.

Ms Lindberg said the problem appeared to have been caused by a glitch in the system used to allocate tickets to athletes' relatives.

She added: 'This is chaos, no one knows about the system.

'But I don't know how it is going to be sorted as it is so complex and this is the first Games this programme has been used.'

Locog said the system entitled every Olympic competitor to two tickets for each sesson in which they take part.

The body's director of sport, Debbie Jevans said extra facilities were being opened to make it easier for athletes' families to obtain tickets.

Mr Hunt's proposal came after London Mayor Boris Johnson hinted that ministers had discussed 'how to crack the ticketing problem' during a meeting at the Cabinet Office.

Jackie Brock-Doyle, Locog's director of communications, said the body was talking to accredited groups, including broadcast media, to see 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.'

She 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 to 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 to 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.'

Resale tickets are available for sale online only, and box offices are only for collecting tickets.

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.

Pupils at Clapton Girls Academy in East London have had the 20 free tickets they received before the Games began upgraded to front-row seats.

The girls sat courtside during the Brazil versus Australia men's basketball game.

Teacher Kitty Fox said: 'I think it is fantastic that they are giving any available and unused seats to schoolchildren.

'We have been told that if the people who have paid for the front row seats do turn up then we might have to move along. But so far that hasn’t happened.

'We are just enjoying the fact we have got the chance to witness so many sports.”

Ms Fox, a PE teacher, went on: 'The girls are all keen sportswomen and are chuffed to be here.

'When they found out the girls were absolutely ecstatic, some of them wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise.

'So far we have been court side at the basketball and caught some handball games.

'We are given seats to whatever events need seats filling, so it is kind of pot luck.

'It has been really exciting - one minute we are watching men's water polo, the next women’s basketball.

'Hopefully this experience will inspire the girls to go out and achieve sporting success.'

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.'

Locog yesterday began an investigation into the fiasco as it emerged prized Olympic tickets entrusted to foreign delegations are being openly sold by touts on the streets of Britain.

Touts are cashing in on the huge demand for seats by selling tickets sent overseas by Games organisers.

Last night Scotland Yard said every illegal seller arrested so far had held tickets despatched overseas to national committees and official re-sellers.

One of the touts held is from Germany, another from Slovakia.

The discovery raises further questions about the way in which precious tickets are allocated by the International Olympic Committee.

And it will frustrate millions of British sport fans who have been left watching events on TV because they failed to get a seat in last year’s ballot.

Shadow Olympics Minister Dame Tessa Jowell praised Lord Coe for announcing plans to make more seats available to frustrated fans angry at officials and sponsors who have not used their allocation.

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

'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.'

Dame Tessa said the International Olympic Committee should work with Locog to unlock tickets for genuine fans eager to glimpse a slice of the action.

She added: 'They own the Games, they have got to be part of the solution to this particular problem of the sporting federations and these accredited seats remaining empty.

'However, we can’t wait for that medium-term resolution.'

Former Labour sports minister Kate Hoey, the MP for Vauxhall in south London, said she was 'glad' that ways to fill the empty seats were being explored.

She said: 'There are definitely lots of really, really good community sports clubs all over London, very, very near, with great people who, at the drop of a hat, could get their youngsters there and those youngsters are people who would never, ever have got a ticket.

'They wouldn’t even know what a Visa card was to get a ticket in the first place.

'We’ve already offered the names of some people who have these links in with the grass roots and that could happen very, very easily.

'I think what they have done is probably allocated too many to each international Olympic committee and that could be changed pretty quickly.'

Ms Hoey added: “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.'


Someone owes Mitt an apology, like all the networks...they did not notice all the empty seats?


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