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Press

Dispatches reveals Olympic lanes for sale

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Anthony Barnett at the London Olympic site.

Access to Olympic traffic lanes were offered for sale as part packages by official London 2012 hospitality providers to Dispatches undercover reporters posing as agents for wealthy foreign clients.

Olympic Tickets For Sale: Dispatches which airs tonight on Channel 4 (Monday 13th February) also found that:

  • While 75 per cent of overall tickets went on general sale, the majority of tickets for key events like the opening ceremony and the 100m men's final were not allocated to the general public.
  • Official London 2012 ‘hospitality providers' were allocated around 4 per cent of overall tickets, including a significant number of tickets for key events which they sell as part of packages that only the rich can afford.

The organizers say London 2012 will be an accessible and affordable Games, leaving a lasting sporting legacy.

But 1.8 million British people applied for tickets in the public ballot, over a million applied for the men's 100m final alone, and the vast majority were disappointed.

Dispatches reporter Antony Barnett investigates who got the tickets and for what events.

Packages for sale including access to the Olympic Lanes

Dispatches has discovered that two official London 2012 hospitality providers are offering access to the Olympic Lanes as part of premium packages that also include hotels and tickets to top events like the men's 100m final.

The Olympic lanes is 39 miles of roads inside London that will be used to transport the Olympic family - athletes, officials, media and sponsors like Coca Cola and McDonalds - through some of London's busiest traffic hot spots.

Dispatches sent undercover reporters posing as an agent for wealthy foreign clients to enquire about Olympic packages from official London 2012 hospitality providers Jet Set Sports and Thomas Cook.

Both companies charge tens of thousands of pounds for their premium Olympic tickets packages.

At Thomas Cook's Office's our reporters met Pete Moore, Head of Olympic Trip Packages at Iluka - their partner company responsible for selling Olympic packages.

Moore describes a package available which contained tickets to the men's 100m final.

"That evening they would have 100m final AA Category tickets..."You're going to be able to wipe Usain Bolt's brow with those", he says.

Moore later sent over an outline of a six-night package that include tickets for the 100m final, some cycling and other sought after events. Thomas Cook's price for this was nearly £20,000 per person including accommodation, food and transport. The package was for a group of 23 people with a grand total of £450,708.

Moore also described how our prospective wealthy clients could buy access to the lanes as part of a package

"We have accredited coaches which will travel on the Olympic route network and dedicated drop off and pick up points at the venues", he says.

He also stressed the added benefits of a private coach: "If you're going to be stuck anywhere it might as well be your own luxury coach with air conditioning. Sitting in a little bit of traffic than being crammed on a train, or bus trying to get out there. The other aspect is security - you're going to be much more safe on a coach than in the system. London is going to be unfortunately a focal point in terms of, if somebody wants to make a statement, it's so difficult to police these tube stations and these train stations."

Moore confirmed that the clients would get access to the lanes whenever they wanted, whether attending Olympic events or not.

"For the whole time...They'll have the accreditation on the, right in front of the window, so we'll be on those lanes whenever we want", he says.

Cook went on to describe how sensitivity in the press about the lanes means Thomas Cook has been secretive about their access.

"As you have seen in the papers, there's, there have been so much, so many issues with these Olympic lanes, and to be honest with you, we need to keep it really quiet, um because we can't really be saying that we have access to it, because people will say oh well you can buy your way on to the Olympic lanes.

At Jet Set Sport's Mayfair Office Dispatches reporters met Richard Relton and also asked him what transport arrangements would be laid on for our group bookings.

"All of our clients travel on official, accredited vehicles, to and from venues ... Our programme would be from the moment you arrive into an airport or a destination until the moment you leave, you are on official Jet Set travel", he says.

"The key is the Olympic Lane Network. Our guys will travel in the official vehicles, which is important, so it gets you to the closest drop off point, through the first and different areas of security."

Richard Relton went further. He told the reporters the accredited bus would be available to ferry our group using the Olympic lanes, even when they're not travelling to or from an Olympic event. "The transport's yours for the duration.... You can travel in the lanes for as long as where the lanes are relevant."

When Dispatches asked Andrew Boff, Conservative spokesman for the Olympics, for his thoughts on the rich buying access to Olympic lanes, he says: "I'd be outraged, and I hope that's not the case. If that were the case, that people could buy access over and above other Londoners who've paid their taxes, who've paid their council tax, paid taxes in order to support that road network and then to be - to be excluded from it would be outrageous and I hope that doesn't happen."

In a statement, Thomas Cook say Pete Moore is an employee of Iluka and that his views are personal and do not reflect those of Thomas Cook Plc.

Jet Set told Dispatches that Richard Relton is no longer an employee of jets Set Sports and had given us inaccurate information. They added that clients of theirs have access to the Olympic lanes and they simply manage it and do not sell any type of access.

In a Statement LOCOG told Dispatches that the Olympic Route Network is designed to get people to the Games on time. That the biggest users will be the media, then athletes and that 70% of events will take place outside the Olympic Park. They said athletes have training facilities across London.

They say they have been very clear that the right to purchase tickets from LOCOG does not give access to the Olympic Lanes. They said they would investigate and take action on any evidence that authorized ticket resellers are trying to sell access to the Lanes.

They added that Jet Set has access to the Lanes through other deals but not through its position as an authorized ticket reseller for LOCOG.

Minority of tickets for key events went on general sale

LOCOG say 75 per cent of all tickets will be available to the public but what is less clear is the general public's allocation for the top events like the open ceremony and the men's 100m final.

A LOCOG document seen by Dispatches indicates that the total break down of ticket allocations is as follow:

  • 75 per cent - general sale
  • 12 per cent - National Olympic committees representing the 204 nations competing at the games
  • 8 per cent - Olympic stakeholders/sponsors eg. Coca Cola and McDonalds
  • 1 per cent officials from international Olympic committees, heads of state and other dignitaries
  • 4 per cent - three hospitality providers - Prestige Ticketing, Thomas Cook and Jet Set Sports.

However, Dispatches have learned that a minority of tickets for some key events went on general sale.

Dee Doocey, Liberal Democrats Olympic spokesperson says: "I understand the number of tickets for the opening ceremony and for the 100m final is only twenty nine thousand, so that is about thirty six per cent rather than the seventy five per cent we were led to believe... I think it's a great shame that so few of the public are going to see the 100m final, because if you talk to anybody about the Olympics they think of the 100m final as the one they really want to get tickets for."

Paul Deighton, Chief Executive Officer of LOCOG has previously admitted that 60-70 per cent of the opening ceremony tickets will not be made available to the general public:

"Probably around 30-40 per cent of tickets to the Opening Ceremony will be sold through the application process. And they'll be just as many tickets available at £20,12p as they're at 2012 pounds", he says.

In a statement, LOCOG say they had been very clear from the start that for some events less than 75% of tickets would be available to the public.

They added that Thomas Cook and Jet Set can only purchase 4% of all tickets between them, including 2000 tickets to the 100m final.

Olympic Tickets For Sale: Dispatches - Channel 4 on Monday 13th February 2012 at 8PM

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