Knight faces calls to resign after ticket review

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The Independent Online

Sydney Olympics Minister Michael Knight faced calls for his resignation today after an independent review criticized the controversial ticket program for next year's Games.

Sydney Olympics Minister Michael Knight faced calls for his resignation today after an independent review criticized the controversial ticket program for next year's Games.

New South Wales state opposition leader Kerry Chikarovski said Knight, a political rival, should quit as president of the organizing board SOCOG.

SOCOG came under fire when it was revealed it kept about 500,000 tickets out of a public ballot to offer to rich corporate clients at up to three times face value. The vast majority of tickets have since been returned for normal sale following public outrage.

"Now that the report has found serious flaws in the way SOCOG mishandled the ticketing process, Michael Knight must do the right thing and step down from his post in order to restore public confidence in the preparations of the Games," Chikarovski said in a statement.

"The only conclusion we can draw from these findings is that Michael Knight, in his capacity as president of SOCOG, has been negligent - he failed to ensure SOCOG had the proper checks and balances in place."

Knight ruled out resignations but accepted serious errors were made.

"This is not about finding scapegoats, this is not about finding people to sack it's about fixing our procedures," Knight told a news conference Monday night.

"Yes, we are clearly embarrassed by the depth and breadth of the problems we found. But the Games are only 10 months away and we can't indulge ourselves in a long period of flagellation."

Knight announced a series of board movements, notably the introduction of a second deputy chief executive, Sydney lawyer Michael Eyers, to join Jim Sloman under CEO Sandy Hollway.

Eyers has responsibility for several areas, including ticketing, while Paul Reading, the man responsible for the controversial premium package scheme, keeps his SOCOG job but was demoted to a new area.

The report, commissioned by Knight, spread the blame around the SOCOG hierarchy but found no examples of fraudulent or criminal behavior.

SOCOG management was criticized for failing to control its ticket inventory and for being careless about the accuracy of information given to the public about the number of tickets in the ballot.

The public was told 3.5 million tickets would be available in the ballot, but the actual figure was 3.08 million.

The review, by attorney John Shirbin and auditor Rory O'Connor, said the board needed to review its ticketing management structure and improve accountability and reporting to the board.

SOCOG pledged to raise its standards on ticketing to "the level of due diligence appropriate to a prospectus for a public float."

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