Assembly accuses London 2012 of "excessive secrecy" over controversial ticketing strategy

Wednesday, 07 March 2012
By David Gold at City Hall in London

Sebastian Coe_and_Paul_Deighton_at_London_AssemblyMarch 7 - London 2012 was today accused of "excessive secrecy" by the London Assembly, as chair Sebastian Coe and chief executive Paul Deighton were forced to put up a robust defence of their ticketing strategy for the Olympic and Paralympic Games here.

After Coe thanked the Assembly, as well as the Government and other stakeholders, for their support in organising the Games, the debate turned into a testy and lively session – in what will likely be the last time the Assembly will have the chance to question the London 2012 chiefs before the Olympics this summer.

Coe and Deighton were quizzed on why, according to reports, just 36 per cent of tickets for the 100 metres final in which Usain Bolt could retain his gold medal from Beijing 2008 are available to the public.

Deighton was blunt in his response, telling the Assembly that the figure was wrong and would fluctuate.

"It reveals a problem in trying to calculate estimates of estimates," said Deighton.

He explained that the 36 per cent figure did not take into account a number of statistics, beginning with the fact that of the 80,000 maximum capacity of the Olympic Stadium, where the 100m will be held on August 11, 4,500 seats were eliminated by two big screens at the venue.

A further 10,000 will be taken up by the media, Deighton said, with another 4,000 going to athletes, dignitaries such as members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and 3,000 possibly restricted view seats which won't be sold.

"Our commitment is to sell right across and 75 per cent go to the broad public tickets and 25 per cent to client groups," he added.

"Of those tickets sold half are to client groups.

"In those ticketing groups, about half of those are to the international public, distributed through National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in each country.

"Actually, all those go to the public (just not British).

"You have noticed how efficient the public have been getting tickets on sale in Europe.

"So you'll find a significant number of [that] ticket allocation is in British hands."

Another four million tickets will be put on sale in April with any remainder being sold closer to the Games.

sebastian coe_and_paul_deighton_07-03-12
There was a particularly feisty exchange when Coe was accused of running an "oligarchy" by Assembly Member John Biggs, which riled the London 2012 chair who went on to echo Deighton's (pictured right) defence of the ticketing strategy.

"I fundamentally disagree with the numbers you had this morning," said Coe.

"I think the chief executive has identified on the narrowest definition that goes to 50 per cent.

"I don't agree with your definition of a member of the public...and he (Deighton) is talking about one of a thousand events.

"I could give you numbers today which will alter probably by this afternoon.

"We have four million [tickets] to sell to make sure we get them into the hands of the British public."

Coe was then accused of running an organisation of "excessive secrecy", demanding to know why they could not be given detailed breakdowns of the tickets sold so far and who they had gone to.

"We are very clear from the outset that we won't be maintaining a running commentary on this as it is a complicated process," he said, adding that they had been "entirely transparent".

Coe continued: "To do this [breakdown the figures] at any stage before we have completed [the ticket sales] would be to give inaccurate and dangerously misleading numbers."

They also insisted that when the ticket sale process was complete, it would be clear that, with events for which there are five price bands, tickets available would be divided equally between those bands.

Further disputes between the Assembly and the London 2012 chiefs came over discussion of a recent Channel 4 documentary which alleged some ticket resellers were offering access to Games Lanes.

Deighton firmly refuted that such a thing was possible, and suggested that the accusations were based on "innuendo", though both he and Coe admitted they had not seen the programme.

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