Olympic ticket boss 'resigns'

The official responsible for Sydney's Olympic ticketing controversy left the organizing committee SOCOG on Wednesday.

The official responsible for Sydney's Olympic ticketing controversy left the organizing committee SOCOG on Wednesday.

Paul Reading, who described himself as the "ugly face of capitalism" when the issue blew up, bore the brunt of public criticism after he put aside hundreds of thousands of prime tickets for sale in premium packages at up to three times face value.

The SOCOG board, led by chief executive Sandy Hollway and president Michael Knight, said they had not been informed of Reading's move, which was made to help bridge a budget shortfall. The premium package deal meant the tickets were not available in a public ticket ballot as promised by SOCOG.

SOCOG officials, including Hollway and Knight, would not confirm if Reading was sacked or quit, but Knight made it clear he was no longer welcome.

"Everybody has to find a role to play and clearly there is no role for him in the future," Knight said today.

Reading's position with SOCOG was downgraded by the board last month after an internal review slammed the ticketing process.

He was stripped of responsibility for ticketing and finance, leaving him in charge of only the marketing and hospitality programmes.

"Paul's departure follows the recent changes to our structure and to duties of the senior management," Hollway told staff in a memo Wednesday.

"I want to say that although the last couple of months have been at times difficult and controversial, not least for Paul, he has made a substantial contribution to the project since coming on board in late 1996."

Reading took much of the credit for the successful first round offer earlier this year, when Australians made a record 321,000 multiple ticket orders.

State government opposition leader Kerry Chikarovski, a political rival of Knight's, said Reading had been made the scapegoat for Knight's failure to take responsibility for the ticketing mess.

"Instead of taking any responsibility for the fiasco as the head of the organizing committee, Michael Knight waged a war against the staff, blaming them at every turn for the mess and undermining their ability," she said.

IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch spoke Tuesday with Knight and downplayed the ticket controversy.

"It was a problem, but I think now it is solved," Samaranch said at an IOC conference in Lausanne. "I like to see a positive side. Never before, one year before the games, have people been so interested in buying tickets."

IOC vice president Dick Pound described the ticket situation as "a local issue."