Tue, Jun 19, 2012 - Page 19 News List

IOC probes ticket sales scandal

CAUGHT RED-HANDED:Undercover reporters posing as illegal ticket sellers acting for clients in the Middle East allegedly caught 27 IOC-sanctioned officials selling illegally

AP, LONDON

International Olympic officials have opened a high-level investigation into allegations that authorized representatives in more than 50 countries — including a national Olympic committee — were involved in selling London Olympics tickets on the black market for profit.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) convened an emergency session on Saturday to discuss a dossier of evidence presented to it by Britain’s Sunday Times.

The newspaper published an investigation on Sunday claiming that officials have been offering tickets for the July 27 to Aug. 12 London Games, including highly sought-after events such as the men’s 100m final, at vastly inflated prices.

One of the most damaging allegations was against Spyros Capralos, the Greek Olympic Committee president and top organizer for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

He was quoted as saying he had “pulled strings” with London organizing chairman Sebastian Coe to obtain an extra batch of premium tickets for official agents in Greece, on the pretext that demand in his country had outstripped expectations.

The paper said Capralos acknowledged in talks with its undercover reporters that demand had actually been very low and that many of the tickets were subsequently sold to people outside Greece for profit.

The London organizing committee said Capralos’ alleged boasts of discussions with Coe were untrue. Coe had told the Greek Olympic Committee that tickets were allocated in accordance with IOC ticketing policies, it said.

“There was no further contact — either formal or informal — on this subject,” it said in a statement.

Capralos was not immediately available for comment. A Greek Olympic Committee official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation, denied that anything untoward had taken place.

At issue are ticket allocations given to each of the 205 national Olympic committees to sell in their home countries. The committees appoint an organization within their countries to sell the tickets, a process meant to ensure equity.

IOC rules forbid national committees from selling tickets abroad, inflating ticket prices or selling tickets to unauthorized resellers.

However, the Sunday Times said its undercover reporters, who posed as illegal ticket-sellers acting for clients in the Middle East, caught officials red-handed. It said it has presented the IOC with a dossier of evidence on 27 officials controlling the tickets for 54 countries.

The paper even posted on its Web site videos of its reporters’ negotiations with Capralos and some of the agents. They include official ticket agents in Serbia, Lithuania and China, who offered to sell the undercover reporters premium tickets for up to £6,000 (US$9,407) each.

Official ticket prices for the games range from £20.12 to £2,012.

One of those accused of falling for the newspaper’s ruse was former Olympic swimmer Yoav Bruck, who is authorized to sell tickets in Israel and Cyprus. He denied allegations that he offered the Sunday Times reporters the best seats to the 100m final.

“The report is swamped with untruths, lies and inventions that cries to the heavens,” he told Israel’s Channel 2 TV. “I am saying that we are clean ... We are not selling anything we are not allowed to.”

The report also alleged that Greg Harney, an executive at travel company Cartan Tours and a former top official at the US Olympic Committee, told the undercover reporters how to conceal an illegal ticket sale.

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