Olympics-London ticket grumbles seen as price of success
LONDON May 21 (Reuters) - Complaints over elusive and expensive tickets for the 2012 Olympics are a product of unprecedented demand to see live action from Britons, the man behind the policy said on Monday.
"I'd build a stadium with a million seats because we had more than a million applications to see the opening ceremony and the 100 metres final," Paul Williamson, London 2012 director of ticketing, told the Global Leadership Summit at the London Business School when asked what he would have done differently.
Demand for tickets has far outstripped supply, leading to grumbles from Britons about the initial allocation via online ballot, prices and the number of tickets going to sponsors.
Tickets for the opening ceremony cost from 20.12 pounds ($31.80) to 2,012 pounds ($3,200).
Williamson said London organisers had to market tickets for sports like handball which is a mystery to many people in this country. He said handball and other "challenging sports" like archery, shooting and wrestling would now be played out before full houses.
Athletes could also look forward to having their heats staged in a busy Olympic stadium.
"Morning sessions at the athletics, when the preliminaries are held, were always in a half empty stadium," said Williamson.
"We'll have 60,000 plus in London, so we must have got some of the pricing right. It'll be a different audience from the evenings, more families, but a vibrant atmosphere."
Some of those ticketing grouses were voiced at the conference. Brigitte Ricou-Bellan from online ticket market place StubHub told the conference that her company had surveyed Britons and found dissatisfaction "not just on prices but on delivery of tickets".
However, London organisers won heavyweight support from Michael Payne, former marketing chief for the International Olympic Committee, noting demand for tickets.
"This is viewed internationally as by far the most successful (ticket) marketing programme," Payne told the conference. "It will be the model for Rio (in 2016). The problem is success," he said.
Williamson said a further batch of Games tickets would go on sale on Wednesday and that he expected almost everything to sell out in London.
Tickets for soccer at venues like Newcastle and Glasgow were proving harder to shift, he said.
London organisers had talked of selling excess tickets at booths in the capital before the start of the July 27-Aug. 12 Games but Williamson said he did not expect many tickets to be left over to sell in this way.
($1 = 0.6326 British pounds) (Reporting by Keith Weir, editing by Justin Palmer)
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