What ticket shortage? Packages still unsold – at £4,500 per person
Hospitality provider has spaces at many key Olympic events, does deal with Ticketmaster
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Saturday 19 May 2012
Tickets are still available for the most popular events of the 2012 Olympics – if you have the money.
Research by The Independent has established that thousands of corporate hospitality packages for the most popular days of the Games – likely to feature the likes of the sprinter Usain Bolt and the diver Tom Daley – are still unsold with just 69 days to go.
With Britain slipping into a double-dip recession, companies appear unwilling to pay the typical £4,500 per ticket for blue riband events demanded by Prestige Ticketing, which has sole rights to provide business hospitality at venues.
The Games organiser Locog has allocated Prestige, a subsidiary of the French multinational caterer Sodexo, 80,000 seats, which it is selling for between £295 and £7,500, typically charging £795, £1,500 and £4,500 for a seat and dinner.
The company said yesterday: "Prestige has sold approximately 80 per cent of all our packages to corporate and individual clients and this is in line with our expectations at this stage of our campaign."
The Independent has obtained an up-to-date breakdown of the company's different packages and their availability. It shows that, as of yesterday, the majority (although not necessarily the majority of tickets in its allocation) remain unsold.
Of its 175 packages for top Olympics events such as track and field, indoor cycling, diving, basketball and tennis, 128 are still for sale. Of those, 71 are marked "limited availability" and 57 as "available".
Surprisingly given the intense interest from the public, they include tickets – priced at £4,500 each – for the 100m men's sprint, the opening and closing ceremonies, and cycling and diving events likely to feature stars such as Sir Chris Hoy.
In the past few days, Prestige has dropped its requirement for purchasers to buy tickets in blocks of 10, and reached a deal with the mainstream agency Ticketmaster to sell them singly for the first time.
Details of corporate deals are kept under wraps by Locog, the private company which organises the Games for the taxpayer. Scrutiny of Prestige's accounts suggests it has agreed to pay Locog £43m for exclusive rights to sell corporate hospitality at the Olympics and a further £4m for the Paralympics. The licence payments – which will flow from profits from ticket sales – appear to have been back-loaded so they will be made to Locog at some point this year.
Most members of the public have missed out on tickets, despite millions going on general sale. Overall, 75 per cent of Olympics tickets were earmarked for the British public, 12 per cent for the 200 national Olympics committees, 8 per cent for sponsors and other stakeholders, and 5 per cent for the IOC, sports federations, tour operators and hospitality providers such as Prestige.
Locog said corporate hospitality funded other parts of the Games, adding that "the income generated by these programmes provide a vital source of revenue that makes the Games more accessible to many more fans". Out of each ticket sold by Prestige, £25 goes to help pay for 150,000 free tickets for children and members of the Armed Forces.
Prestige has spent heavily on building corporate hospitality venues at Horse Guards Parade, Greenwich Park and the Olympic Park. Guests of corporations – likely to be banks, oil and gas and technology companies – will enjoy three-course champagne dinners and prime views of the action in exchange for their hosts' generosity.
Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant who analysed Prestige Ticketing's 2010 and 2011 accounts for The Independent, said: "If this company is not going to be selling the tickets it's forecasting, it's not going to be repaying £47m to Locog. It's a sign of some degree of desperation to sell them singly only two months before. I would say there is a considerable financial risk to Locog."
Prestige said in a statement: "We are delighted with our sales results to date and we are confident that we will not have any unsold packages by the time the Games come around."
Sold out? Not for fat cats
Men’s keirin final Corporate price: £4,500
Men’s 100m final Corporate price: £4,500
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Women’s 800m freestyle swimming final Corporate price: £4,500
Men’s basketball Corporate price: £795
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