Olympic ticket fiasco set to cost SOCOG millions

The Sydney Olympics ticketing fiasco is set to cost organizers more than slumping public faith, with the federal government to impose a new tax on elite packages.

The Sydney Olympics ticketing fiasco is set to cost organizers more than slumping public faith, with the federal government to impose a new tax on elite packages.

Prime Minister John Howard has announced that tickets sold at inflated prices under SOCOG's controversial premium package deal would be not be exempt from a new Goods and Services Tax (GST).

SOCOG sources estimated the decision would cost the organizers up to 12 million Australian dlrs (7.68 million US dlrs).

"This has knocked a big hole in the budget," said a spokesman for SOCOG president Michael Knight.

Howard was criticized for the decision today with some opponents claiming it was a reaction to the pressure which forced him to hand over opening ceremony duties to Sir William Deane, the Australian representative of Queen Elizabeth II.

"It's obviously vindictive," said federal opposition leader Kim Beazley. "This is the prime minister's payback for finally doing the right thing and standing down from opening the Games."

Howard rejected the criticism.

"Any suggestion there's some kind of payback in relation to people raising the question of my opening the Olympics - that is nonsense, absolute nonsense," Howard said today.

Howard said SOCOG deserved criticism for its handling of Games tickets, where seats to some of the best events were sold to the highest bidders in secret packages.

Knight was forced to make an embarrassing apology and admitted the Australian public stood almost no chance of getting tickets for some events because premium seats were held back from sale.

A total of 3.08 million tickets were included in the Australian ballot earlier this year. That was down from the 3.5 million announced last year.

"You can't help but be critical of (SOCOG), for heaven's sake," Howard said.Federal treasurer Peter Costello on Monday accused SOCOG of withholding information from the government as well as the public.

"I think they were conning the whole of Australia, weren't they?" Costello said.

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