With more than 200,000 tickets still available for the Rio De Janeiro Olympics, having ticketing technology fail and dealing with ticket scalpers, the man charged with managing them all has been demonstrating the sort of key function an organising committee should have in its back pocket.
Errol Alcott, chairman of Rio’s organizing committee and former Arsenal owner, said tickets are a “big problem” in the Olympic Games but one that they are hoping to solve. “We tried to find solutions. We’ve got solutions. It doesn’t [make you feel] good because it’s a big problem. It is complicated,” he said. “It is one of the big problems … in a World Cup or the Olympics, you have a lot of people wanting a good seat. So you have a lot of scalpers, and with them scalpers can make a big profit on ticketing.”
There are times when you feel like a dumb spectator Matthew Syed
Those scalpers can be ruthless. In London and Sochi, tickets are sometimes traded through numerous, deceitful means. But these days it has become a growing problem on the secondary market which many are hoping to prevent.
In London, there have been eight cases of counterfeit tickets with many of the relevant criminal cases being dealt with.
In Rio, tickets were sold via popular internet agencies, the Rio Committe on Secure Sport (RCaSS) and the World Cup Organising Committee, but only a fifth of tickets have been collected and there is still a long way to go before the opening ceremony next month. To help combat the problem, the Rio 2016 chief executive Rasaio Cerqueira was working with one of the main tickets brokers and had identified 20 “people using illegal methods”.
“To be honest, we have seen a rise in this trend in the past 10 to 15 years,” Cerqueira said. “Rio has always been known for this kind of hustle. It’s part of our culture. We were in communication with many of the speculators around the world and we have found all of them are Brazilian.”
The stream of tickets from Brazil with some way to make a quick buck could be viewed as another national weakness in an Olympic Games where security has been a hugely important issue. Not only has it made the process of collecting tickets more difficult, but the Games have been threatened by drug gangs and the Brazilian federal police have swooped on cartels trying to smuggle buses to the competition.
And where more than 400,000 Brazilians have been turned away from the venue, it has led to plenty of turmoil along the way, with spectators calling the situation a “nightmare” and “embarrassing”.
“In Brazil, there are moments where you feel like a dumb spectator,” said Matthew Syed, the BBC’s chief correspondent for football. “You think: ‘How can something like this be happening when Brazil is such a superpower?’ It’s something that’s playing on a lot of people’s minds.”
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