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7:43am UK, Sunday June 17, 2012
Foreign Olympic officials and agents have been caught trying to sell thousands of London 2012 tickets on the black market for up to 10 times their value, it has been claimed.
The corruption is widespread, according to a newspaper report, which accuses officials who control tickets for up to 54 countries of selling them to the highest bidder.
Journalists claiming to work for a Middle Eastern ticket tout were offered some of the best seats at the most sought-after events – including the 100m sprint final, it is alleged.
The Sunday Times accuses the foreign officials and agents of siphoning off tickets from official supplies held by overseas National Olympic Committees (Nocs) to sell at exorbitant prices.
Hundreds of thousands of Brits failed to get tickets
As a result of the newspaper’s investigation, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) called an emergency meeting of its executive board and launched its own probe.
It said it would impose the “strongest sanctions” on officials caught dealing on the black market, and could ban the countries involved from ever selling tickets again.
The Sunday title claims it uncovered 27 agents willing to sell tickets on the black market, including Serbia’s official ticket agent, who offered to sell around 1,500 tickets to events for £80,000.
Yoav Bruck, the former Olympic swimmer who is authorised to sell tickets in Israel and Cyprus, is also accused of offering to sell reporters 525 top seats for £66,000.
While the report says Lithuania’s official agent, Asta Zirlyte, boasted she had withheld tickets from her own country so they could be sold on the black market.
“If I take a risk and they catch me, that means your tickets will be cancelled. So you have to understand the risk,” she allegedly said.
The chairman of the London Organising Committee (Locog), Lord Coe, had promised to deliver a watertight ticketing strategy for the Games.
But a record 1.2 million tickets were released to overseas Olympic committees, who bid for their share of the ticket allocation based on demand in their countries.
This system resulted in officials exaggerating local demand so they could get the maximum number of tickets, the newspaper claims, despite them being forbidden to sell their tickets abroad or to anyone who plans to resell them.
As a result, the black market was flooded with seats at the most sought-after events, it has been alleged.
The president of Greece’s Olympic committee, Spyros Capralos, allegedly boasted he had “pulled strings” with Lord Coe to allocate his country more top tickets to the Games on the pretext that demand in the country had outstripped expectations.
But he said, in truth, demand was “very low” and few tickets had been sold there, the report claims.
Locog has said no discussions took place between Mr Capralos and Lord Coe.
It comes after hundreds of thousands of Brits were left disappointed after failing to get any tickets for the major event, due to start on July 27.
Locog said any official caught selling tickets in this way would have their allocations confiscated, which would then be released to the British public and other countries.
The Sunday Times said it did not go ahead with any of the deals to buy or sell tickets for the 2012 Games.