Foreign buyers hijack Olympics ticket ballot

System is labelled 'a farce' as more than 150,000 tickets are sent overseas – and even the handball matches sell out

More than 150,000 coveted tickets for the London Olympics were sent overseas after foreign bidders hijacked the ballot set up for British sports fans.

Organisers of the 2012 Games admitted that EU trade rules meant they had no power to stop people living abroad from taking part in the lottery for tickets, a system which has already been heavily criticised for leaving large numbers of Britons without a ticket for any event. Many bidders even complained that they had missed out on tickets for handball matches, a little-loved sport in the UK which sold out this weekend.

Figures from the bidding process show applicants from other European countries had two bites of the cherry: first by applying for tickets designated for other countries to distribute, and then again by entering the ballot held in Britain. Around 95,000 EU residents applied for tickets, boosting the competition for seats and scooping around 5 per cent of those available to British bidders.

The latest breakdown of who got what has led to fresh criticism over the way tickets were sold. The London Organising Committee (Locog) has already been forced to defend itself against claims that it established a system which appeared to favour those wealthy enough to maximise their chances of success by bidding for large numbers of tickets. A process characterised as a "second-chance scramble" was mired in further problems when those trying to get hold of unsold leftovers for the least popular sports ran into a jammed website on Friday morning. Bidders are due to find out today whether they were successful in that second round.

Those who might have wanted to watch the 100 metres sprint final – a so-called blue riband event which is often the most exciting and talked about event of any Olympic Games – face another hurdle, however. Locog confirmed this weekend that because seating arrangements for press, VIPs and sporting officials has not been finalised, a tranche of tickets for the gold medal race has been held back. This could account for 8,000 tickets. Tickets for finals in swimming and track cycling were also held back from the ballot for the same reason.

The ticketing system permitting two chances for foreign applicants to get to events has been called "double dipping" and has provoked anger among MPs. Conservative MP Priti Patel told The Sunday Telegraph: "The system is a farce. British taxpayers and Londoners who have paid through their taxes to fund the Games will be alarmed and hugely disappointed to see they were not given priority." Labour MP Alison Seabeck added: "Some people will feel rightly aggrieved that they won't be able to share in this fantastic event."

A spokesman for Locog said: "We didn't market the tickets outside the UK but EU law means we can't restrict their sale within the EU based on where people live. Lots of Britons have been trying to buy tickets through agents in Europe, so it works both ways."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness