Could a False Flag Event be on the way at the Olympics?
Source: Mail Online
Prized Olympic tickets entrusted to foreign delegations are being openly sold by touts on the streets of Britain, it emerged last night.
They are cashing in on the huge demand for seats by selling tickets sent overseas by Games organisers.
The revelation came as a row raged over embarrassing scenes of banks of empty seating at many Games venues – including last night’s swimming finals.
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Last night Scotland Yard said every illegal seller arrested so far had held tickets despatched overseas to national committees and official re-sellers.
One of the touts held is from Germany, another from Slovakia.
The discovery raises further questions about the way in which precious tickets are allocated by the International Olympic Committee.
And it will fuel anger among millions of British sport fans who have been left watching events on TV because they failed to get a seat in last year’s ballot.
Pointing out the gaps: Soldiers fill empty IOC seats for the women’s gymnastics yesterday
Last night, as an official probe was launched into the scandal:
- Shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell said those not using their seats should be stripped of them.
- Olympics boss Lord Coe claimed venues were ‘stuffed to the gunwales’ and dismissed pictures of the seats as ‘holiday snaps’.
- Organisers insisted the empty seats were not allocated to sponsors, claiming they were unused by athletes, officials and the media.
- Troops, students and teachers are being drafted in to sit in the empty seats to prevent a repeat of the embarrassing scenes.
The Yard confirmed that about 20 people had been arrested attempting to sell tickets since the opening ceremony on Friday.
Yesterday spectators who bought tickets for the Olympic Park, because all venues inside were sold out of lower-priced tickets, had the frustration of watching pictures on the big screen of unfilled seats.
GYMNAST FAILS DRUGS TEST
A Gymnast from Uzbekistan has become the first athlete to fail a drugs test during the 2012 Olympics.
Luiza Galiulina, 20, right, was provisionally suspended from competing after a urine sample provided on Wednesday tested positive for furosemide, a diuretic that can be used as a masking agent or for weight loss.
She will now have a second test.
The 4ft 9in athlete, the only gymnast competing for Uzbekistan, would have taken part in the women’s qualifiers yesterday.
But a prickly Lord Coe insisted the ticketing process had worked.
He even dismissed pictures of empty seats as ‘holiday snaps’ before admitting troops and students could be used to fill gaps.
‘We take it seriously,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to see swathes of those seats empty and that’s why we will make sure, where we can, people are in those seats when they are not used.’
The London 2012 chairman added: ‘Let’s put this in perspective. Those venues are stuffed to the gunwales. The public are in there.’
Initially, the empty spaces were blamed on ‘no-shows’ from blocks given to sponsors but yesterday the finger was pointed at the athletes, media and sports federations, who cannot be bothered to use their entitlement to a seat at the venue.
Designer Paul Chandler, 42, who travelled down to the Olympic Park from Nottingham with his family, added: ‘Standing in the wet watching pictures of empty seats on the big screen, we feel betrayed.’
Sally Pookey, 31, who lives less than a mile from the Olympic Park, said: ‘I felt disgusted when I saw all the gaps in the stands.’
Last night, Team GB cyclist Geraint Thomas said: ‘It’s quite sad, seeing all the empty seats.’
Lord Coe revealed yesterday how troops, students and teachers were being drafted in to help end the embarrassing spectacle of empty seats at Olympic venues.
The Locog chairman said fans with tickets could have them upgraded so they can sit in more expensive areas reserved for VIP members of the ‘Olympic family’.
He added that tickets for sports held in double sessions, such as hockey, basketball, water polo and handball, were being recycled and re-sold as people leave.
This system is similar to the one employed at the Wimbledon tennis championships, where spectators leaving show courts can hand back their tickets to be bought by someone else
EMPTY SEATS – VENUE BY VENUE
Some large chunks of empty seats even at United States v France at the Basketball Arena, one of the top draws. Organisers reacted by using one block as a press box overspill, while some troops were invited in to take up more empty seats.
Very few empty seats for the morning and afternoon sessions at the Water Polo Arena, but the section for the Olympic Family was half-empty for the morning sessions.
The boxing venue at ExCel, in terms of buyable tickets, was almost completely full.
The blocks of seats at Wimbledon reserved for those with accreditation showed the biggest gaps. The majority of the other seats were full, particularly the cheaper ones towards the back of the stands.
Great Britain’s men started in front of a largely full house at Earls Court, although pockets of seats were left vacant. There were also unused seats in the delegation and media areas.
Wembley Arena, which has a capacity of 4,800 for the Games, has been officially sold out for the badminton. The hall has been close to full for the sessions held so far, with three rows unoccupied due to restricted view.
More than 65,000 were expected for the men’s football at Old Trafford although many did not turn up for the first match (New Zealand v Egypt), but it filled up for Brazil v Belarus.
Decent attendances over the first two days of competition at ExCeL for a relatively low-demand event, with the arena approximately 80% full with Great British lifters still yet to compete.
Some empty seats in the arena at Greenwich Park but equestrian manager Tim Hadaway said that crowds often moved throughout the venue during the day, meaning some seats may be left empty at times – spectators can walk around the cross country course.
Almost packed at ExCeL yesterday. On Saturday it started with quite a few empty seats, but filled up as the day went on.
The venue at Horse Guards Parade is averaging two-thirds full according to official attendances – the capacity is 15,000.
Close to capacity for yesterday’s morning matches at the Riverbank Arena.
There were only a handful of empty seats at the ExCeL.
The morning session at the handball was virtually full at the Copper Box.
Fewer empty seats yesterday than Saturday- an estimated 1,000 were empty in the first session on Saturday when the GB men were qualifying. Around 100 seats were given over to soldiers yesterday at the North Greenwich Arena.
Packed out for all sessions at the Royal Artillery Barracks.
Reports of around 100 vacant seats in the two grandstands – which were sold out. The venue manager at Lord’s said none of those were for sponsors or Olympic family as they are all housed in the pavilion.
The ExCeL Arena was around four-fifths full when the table tennis got under way at 9am and the rest of the seats filled up during the afternoon although it was never at capacity.
He said: ‘It’s not easy to ask people (in the accredited Olympic family) at the beginning of the Games exactly how, where and when they’re going to be in those seats.
‘This morning was a very good example, we looked at gymnastics, we could see at this moment there are empty seats in the accredited area – the rest of the venue is looking pretty good this morning, there’s a good atmosphere.’
‘So we were able to move those troops from – I’m not quite sure whether they were on a rest period or whether it was a transition from work through to a rest period – but they’re sitting there enjoying the gymnastics.
‘We can and we have moved them in there.
‘Yesterday, we got pre-accredited students and teachers from the local boroughs. We were able to put 115, 120 into a venue.’
A MoD spokesperson said: LOGOG has kindly offered service men and women working on venue security to make use of unutilised seating when they are off duty. These seats will be made available to venue security personnel to utilise on a voluntary basis when off duty.
Olympics organisers had to call in extra military personnel before the Games after private firm G4S failed to provide enough civilian security guards.
Asked whether the military would always be brought in whenever anything went wrong during the Games, Lord Coe joked: ‘We won’t be cancelling leave to make sure they’re sitting in our venues.
‘It will resolve itself quite quickly.’
Lord Coe also dismissed suggestions that ticket-holders who failed to turn up should be stripped of their accreditation.
‘Let’s not run away with ourselves here,’ he said.
‘We’re talking about an issue on the first couple of days.
‘It’s not for the organising committee to remove accreditation.’
Lord Coe called for the row to be kept in perspective, claiming that thousands of people were watching events and several steps were being taken to resolve the issue.
‘Let’s put this in perspective,’ he said. ‘Those venues are stuffed to the gunwales. The public are in there.
‘There are tens of thousands of people at this moment within the accredited family who are trying to figure out what their day looks like, where they’re going to be asked to go to.
‘Frankly just working out how you’re going to divide your time.’
Mark Adams, of the International Olympic Committee, said: ‘It’s completely wrong to say this is a sponsors issue.’
Those who have failed to turn up include sports organisations from around the world, the media, and ‘a handful of sponsors’, he said.
Matt and Amanda Casson, from London, watched this morning’s swimming heats at the Aquatics Centre – including British gold medal hope Rebecca Adlington’s victory in her heat.
The pair said it was disappointing there were noticeable gaps of empty seats in the centre during the races.
Mr Casson, 36, said: ‘It’s really disappointing. They should do something like they do at Wimbledon where at a certain time they put them on sale to the general public, just re-sell them.
TWO CHARGED WITH TICKET TOUTING NEAR OLYMPIC STADIUM
Two foreign nationals have been charged with ticket touting after being arrested near the Olympic stadium before Friday night’s spectacular opening ceremony.
Wolfgang Menzel, a 57-year-old German, and Maria Bukranova, a 30-year-old Slovakian, of Woolwich, south east London, were charged under Section 31 of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006.
Menzel, 57, and Bukranova, 30, will appear before magistrates at separate hearings this month.
They were among 16 people arrested on Friday and Saturday by police trying to stamp out ticket touting at the Olympics.
The head of the Operation Podium, Detective Superintendent Nick Downing, said: ‘My team has been working tirelessly to clamp down on ticket touts.
‘We have been, and will continue to seek out and take robust action against anybody who tries to cash in on the 2012 Games in this way.
‘Ticket touting is illegal and is a clear exploitation of those who genuinely wish to experience the Games first-hand.
‘I would also urge people to think twice about purchasing tickets from these criminals: if you do, you are likely to find yourself paying over the odds for them, while at the same time fuelling criminality.’
Det Supt Downing warned that anybody buying tickets from unofficial sources could end up with their personal and credit card details being stolen for use in other crimes.
‘Or even if they upgraded people downwards, closer to the front, to fill them, that would look better.’
Mari Fotherby travelled from Cirencester with husband Andy and daughters Catrin and Hana, 26 and 23.
She said: ‘We were surprised at the number of empty seats.
‘I’m not sure what the reason is, I just wish there were more tickets available to the public.
‘We were lucky to get the swimming – this session – and the cycling, but we were the only people we knew who managed to get swimming tickets.’
Olympics organisers Locog have launched an investigation into the fiasco and the Government has voiced concern as to why the seats were not taken despite events being apparently sold out.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the empty seats were ‘very disappointing’.
He added: ‘I was at the Beijing Games, in 2008, and one of the lessons that we took away from that, is that full stadia create the best atmosphere, it’s best for the athletes, it’s more fun for the spectators, it’s been an absolute priority.
‘Locog are doing a full investigation into what happened, I think it was accredited seats that belonged to sponsors, but if they’re not going to turn up, we want those tickets to be available for members of the public, because that creates the best atmosphere.
‘We are looking at this very urgently at the moment.’
British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan said organisers ‘owed it to the team’ to ensure the seats were filled.
‘The position of the British Olympic Association is very clear, we want every seat filled’, he said. ‘We welcome the fact this morning that Jeremy Hunt has taken responsibility and announced that he is going to lead an inquiry with Locog and Seb (Lord Coe) this morning to work on this.
‘We are very keen that there should be an early solution and that the empty seats should be filled as quickly as possible.
‘Yesterday it worked best at Eton Dorney, we had record crowds – there’s never been 25,000 seats sold and filled for a rowing event.’
‘That lifts the British team. We need every seat filled. We owe it to the team, we owe it to British sports fans the length and breadth of the country to make sure they get the opportunity to come to this unique occasion at the Olympic Games.’
Shadow Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell said: ‘Anyone who is lucky enough to have tickets to the Games should either use them or give them up.
‘I am pleased to see that unused tickets are now being distributed to members of our armed forces, local teachers and students.
‘It is important that this process is stepped up to ensure that every single available ticket is offered to somebody who will use it.’
Video: Lord Coe downplays empty seats fiasco
Video: Athletes speak out on blocks of empty seats