Anger replaces elation over extra Olympic tickets
Not everyone's happy about 40,000 extra tickets surfacing for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and with good reason.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Tickets on saleCoSport, the U.S. ticketing agency for the Feb. 12-28, 2010 Games, has nearly 40,000 extra tickets, including some for unspecified "high-demand" events. Those tickets go on sale online at 11 a.m. Thursday at www.cosport.com. They'll be sold on a first-come, first-served basis, and only to buyers who have established an account on the Web site.
For some Olympic fans, elation over news that 40,000 Vancouver 2010 tickets would go on sale to U.S. customers this Thursday quickly turned to anger as soon as they read the fine print.
The number of tickets in the sale, to be conducted at www.cosport.com, the Web site of CoSport, the exclusive U.S. reseller, will nearly equal the original roughly 48,000 distributed through a complicated, much-complained-about lottery system last fall.
That's the rub.
Back then, would-be ticket purchasers had to preregister, fill out detailed ticket requests (for events they had no idea if CoSport even possessed tickets for, or how many), then wait weeks to find out if they won the ticket lottery.
In the face of record ticket demand, many people got no tickets. And many got shut out again in February, when a second, 7,000-ticket sale open only to first-round participants turned into a Web-crash fiasco.
Yet none of them will get first dibs in this sale, which will offer 40,000 Olympic tickets, first-come, first-serve, to the U.S. public starting at 11 a.m. PDT Thursday.
"It's not fair, and it's not right," says Ed Dooley of Sequim, a retired CFO who was one of those early applicants. Dooley is prepared to complain to the U.S. Olympic Committee, the Justice Department, and anyone else who will listen about what he calls a thorough botching of U.S. ticket sales for the 2010 Games.
Dooley makes a good point. And lest you think he's just whining, consider a couple other eyebrow-raising facts about U.S. ticket sales for the 2010 Games:
• They're really expensive. CoSport marks up all tickets by about a third over the cost of the same tickets sold in Canada (which are distributed by the Vancouver Organizing Committee, and available to Canadian residents only through a separate process). But if you factor in the roughly 20 percent U.S.-Canadian currency exchange rate, which CoSport conveniently does not, the markup paid by U.S. fans is around 50 percent.
• The rich appear to get richer under the Olympic flame. VANOC alone decides how to distribute its 1.6 million Vancouver 2010 tickets, and it carefully guards actual numbers of who got what.
Perhaps now we're seeing why. A little math here: Last fall's total initial U.S. allotment for individual tickets (not part of a travel package) was 33,500, according to CoSport. The company said it added an additional 15,000 tickets to the phase-one ticket sale from its other business arm, Jet Set Sports, which sells expensive Olympic travel packages. That got the U.S. share up to a whopping 3 percent of the Games' total.
The bulk of the 40,000 tickets identified for individual sale last week came from an additional transfer of tickets from Jet Set to CoSport, company officials said. Let's be conservative and say that number was 30,000. That would make 45,000 tickets deemed "extras" have been transferred from Jet Set to CoSport — compared to only 43,000 actually allocated for individual U.S. ticket sales.
That would mean VANOC granted more tickets to a glorified travel agency, Jet Set Sports (which sold packages at up to $34,000 per couple) than it did the entire U.S. public.
Gee. Was it something we said, Canada?
Don't expect the USOC and VANOC, both of which contract with CoSport and/or Jet Set, to leap into the fray to set things right. These exclusive ticket contracts are licenses to print money, and all parties connected to this well-greased gravy train are making out nicely.
Except, of course, the American Olympic fan — the ordinary people who keep this entire multi-billion-dollar machine running.
You wonder how much abuse they'll take before they stop.
The 2010 Winter Olympics will be the sixth covered by columnist Ron Judd, author of a new keepsake guide, "The Winter Olympics: An Insider's Guide to the Legends, the Lore, and the Games." Contact him at 206-464-8280 or email@example.com
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