Beijing 2022 has employed the Alibaba Group to run its ticketing programme for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics – a role the Chinese company seems set to fulfil for several editions of the Games afterwards.
The decision to appoint the Chinese e-commerce, retail, Internet, and technology giant was officially announced during the fourth visit of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission to inspect preparations.
It is expected they will be awarded the contract for several Olympic and Paralympic Games after Beijing 2022 as the IOC has been searching for a solution to how tickets are distributed following the most recent scandal at Rio 2016.
The IOC had launched a worldwide expression of interest as long ago as in December 2015 following several high-profile ticket controversies before London 2012.
Alibaba, a worldwide partner of the IOC since December 2017, plans to use its technological and data expertise to design the system, it has promised.
The appointment of Alibaba has been made with the objective of securing a single provider to deliver ticketing services and operations over several Games editions, reducing costs and the complexity of hosting the event in line with the recommendations of Olympic Agenda 2020 on efficient turnkey solutions.
It is claimed future Organising Committees will benefit from the opportunity to have a continuity of service through the provision of established systems and delivery experience, alleviating the need to design, engineer and deliver a solution for each individual Games edition.
"The ticketing solutions provided will drive further innovation at the Olympic Games, enhance the spectator experience and reduce costs for organisers, delivering on the commitments made by Olympic Agenda 2020," Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC Television and Marketing Services, said.
Recent Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers have managed the total sale and distribution of approximately 10 million tickets for the Summer Games editions, with approximately two million tickets for the Winter Games editions.
Authorised ticket resellers (ATRs) are appointed by Local Organising Committees for specific countries and territories.
Companies selected have to sell the tickets at face-value but many offer other services, including travel and accommodation, helping them make a profit.
But British company THG Sports was accused of selling 1,000 black market tickets for Rio 2016, a scandal which led to the arrest in Brazil of IOC Executive Board member and President of the Olympic Council of Ireland Patrick Hickey.
He remains on bail at home in Dublin and is still awaiting to discover whether he will have to stand trial.
It is unclear at the moment what the appointment of Alibaba means for ATRs.
"We are proud to extend our partnership with the Olympic Games, beyond e-commerce and cloud, by supporting the Beijing 2022 ticketing programme," Chris Tung, Alibaba’s chief marketing officer, said.
"We look forward to leveraging our technology to help provide streamlined, digitally-enabled ticket sales services to create a seamless ticketing experience for fans around the world."
In addition to existing work with the IOC on the development of its digital strategy and ecosystem, Alibaba owns Damai, one of China’s largest ticketing platforms.