PRO Olympics
with a TWIST

 The Book - Buy It * Read It * Profit   What we know so far    Olympics region business strategies  homepage     Think Local * Act Global    Profitable business strategies in Olympics regions


Contact Us

WEB 2.0

2010 Olympics Business News for the Vancouver and Whistler regions of British Columbia. Plus, Alberta, the rest of Canada, Washington State, Oregon, Idaho, Montana & California

OlyBLOG Features:

Get Their Heads Out of Their Assets

What You Need to Know BEFORE You Purchase Olympics Tickets

On October 12, 2007, The Vancouver Sun newspaper announced VANOC's plans for it's 2010 Olympics sport event ticket program.

Nothing new here folks. Go back to your homes. The show is over.

It's the same old same old EVERY Olympics region suffers through. Olympics organizations partner with a local newspaper to create fanfare and make promises they cannot possibly keep. Sound familiar?

It should, because exactly the same propaganda is rolled out in every Olympics host region, and like clockwork, gullible Olympics fans fall for it.

One difference this time though is smart citizens, those who use Twitter and read blogs like this now know what to expect. Usually, Olympics ticket event programs are foisted upon an unsuspecting public, but in this era, no one has an excuse to get sucked into the black hole unaware.

VANOC and The Sun are so excited about this campaign they stumble over each other trying to convince us THEY won't repeat the same mistakes virtually every single Olympics organization made in the last twenty years.

Unfortunately, they don't tell us how they are going to do it.

VANOC reporter Jeff Lee tells us all bout the good side of the program, but again, he conveniently forgot to tell readers exactly what went wrong in other host regions. In Sydney Australia for example, the federal government had to launch expensive inquires TWICE in order to force Olympics organizations and their partnering newspapers to manage their program ethically.

The Sun hinted there were some improprieties in the past, but they never told us what happened. Instead they were more concerned with ticket scalpers, and that marginalized people might not be able to attend the Games if the ticket prices were too high. Yeah, like that's important to a homeless addict living on the street on East Hastings. They have more important concerns, like making it through a cold night and eating.

Olympic organizations should get their heads out of their assets and try much harder to make this work, because based on what they are saying so far, it's essentially the same old crusty crap wrapped in a different bow. Nothing new.

If you're in a rush and you don't care for the details I outlined below, here's all you need to know;

Most average citizens will not be able to buy tickets for the 2010 Olympics.

It was never the plan, and you can moan about it all you want, but you are not invited to the party. If you were, VANOC would have consulted you long ago to ask what local citizens who are paying for 2010 need. But they didn't.

Instead they made the decision behind closed doors and used their partner, The Vancouver Sun, to spring it on you like it was cause to celebrate.

You're going to have a stroke when you read what other Olympic regions went through in the very recent past.

Mostly, the announcement today was meant to hype locals and feed the frenzy, but if you're smart, you won't worry too much about missing out due to costs, because at the last two Games in Athens and Turin, spectators never showed up and thousands of seats sat empty. Olympics organizations had to give away tens of thousands of great seats just to make it look good for the television cameras.

Won't you feel stupid when a couple sits next to you boasting they scored seats for nothing while you paid $2,000 a ticket.

Don't say we didn't warn you.

The Globe and Mail interviewed me in 2008 (after this blog was posted) for an article about how to find and buy 2010 Olympic Hockey Tickets.

Here's what I published about Olympics ticketing programs
in early 2006 in my book, Leverage Olympic Momentum.

Excerpts from

... the News Limited newspaper publishing company, bought the rights to advertise and market tickets for [Sydney Australia 2000] Olympic events. Newspapers owned by News Limited published ticket application booklets. It was reported by rival newspaper, "The Herald," that Rupert Murdoch, who owned News Limited, at first blocked using; "newsagents, Olympic retail outlets, and the internet" as supplementary channels for ticket order forms. It smacked of a monopoly and launched the program on the wrong foot.

To make matters worse, SOCOG circulated a deceptive story that tickets were hard to come by, and even went as far as to promote that some events were close to being "sold out."

Australian journalist, Mathew Moore, doubted reports that ninety-six percent of the baseball tickets were sold. He based his disbelief on the fact that even the sale of Olympic baseball tickets in Atlanta (baseball-central for North America in 1996), wasn't that high. Consequently the Herald filed a freedom of information request regarding the numbers for ticket sales, and true to Olympic form the request was turned down. Reports soon circulated that Michael Knight, NSW Olympic Minister, refused publication of SOCOG's agendas and minutes. He argued that Olympic organizations could not deal effectively with business matters if the public was privy to everything.

The ticketing issue became even worse when Moore reported that premium tickets were offered to exclusive clubs and associations before the public had an opportunity to purchase. It's common for select seats to be held for VIPs, but in this case the public was promised this strategy would not be used, and they would have a fair shot at buying good seats too.

As you can see, selling sponsorships to two rival newspapers turned into a nightmare in many respects for Olympic organizations. In effect newspapers ended up tattling on each other, and in many instances the public came out the winner. Needless to say though, it worked well for Olympic organizations too because a sponsor newspaper did have a legal obligation to keep many aspects of what they knew confidential. It's a tradeoff that each Olympic region has to deal with on its respective terms. One thing is certain, selling sponsorships to rival newspaper companies ensures that each will look very carefully at the other and be exceedingly tempted to report incongruities.

[Helen] Lenskyj contends, and I fully agree, media outside the loop chose to blindly report only what Olympic organizations wanted them to report because they didn't want to be regarded as negative or labeled enemies of the state. Media are getting smarter in this respect, but unfortunately many still toe the company line. (hjl23 - hjl is Helen Jefferson Lenskyj author of "The Best Games Ever?")

___________________________ next excerpt

Olympic organizations are forced to downplay the amount of time volunteers will have to invest [in becoming a volunteer]. Plus, they will not include things like food, transportation, cost of uniforms, free tickets to events, etc. If they attract enough volunteers the offer stands, but if recruitment falls below expectations they start to add perks as needed to spur on interest. Try to bide your time and not be the first volunteer or paid worker in the door to commit. Quite often they will offer a different deal to people who sign on later. Past Olympic agreements have stipulated workers cannot discuss details of their agreement with other workers. Almost no one adheres to the stipulation, but it certainly slows down the transfer of information while everyone is still happy and in "Dream of a Lifetime" mode. Once panic mode kicks in though people start to compare notes and the situation goes overnight from bad to nightmare. Olympic organizations know that even if they recruit everyone they need it's a good idea to hold off on perks like free tickets to Opening and Closing Ceremony "dress rehearsals" (not the real thing). They know that at certain points workers are going to start to feel the strain and if they are offered a little surprise gift in pre-panic mode it helps keep them on side. If you give a volunteer or paid worker everything up front the employer will have nothing left when they need it most. The downside is that sometimes workers expect too much and when they are overlooked or given something they don't feel is adequate they revolt and sabotage the system.

Considering that the Olympic spectacle is primarily a television spectacle, and most revenue is generated through broadcasting as opposed to live event ticket sales, it is important to note that locals are not given special access to tickets for events. It is always a sensitive issue, especially considering that the best seats on the open market are always reserved for purchase by people from outside the host country. Popular event tickets are often priced above what local fans can afford, and when they do buy tickets they rarely have access to great seats. Olympic organizations make a big deal about keeping ticket prices low and available for local purchasers, but what they don't say is that the bulk of the tickets they offer for local purchase are for unpopular events and positioned in the upper reaches of the venues.

From a promoter's perspective it makes sense because you could not sell enough tickets locally to fill the venues. Also, in most cases, if the hype and price is right locals will purchase sub-par tickets because it is relatively easy for them to get to the venue compared to someone who travels from out of town. In order to entice someone from half way around the world you have to ensure they have access to great seats and popular events.

Plus, contrary to what Olympic organizations would have the general public believe, the absolute best seats in the house are always reserved for heads of state and high-ranking executives of sponsor companies, and also executives of companies that might invest in future Games. To make matters worse, they squander them. In almost all Olympic regions prime tickets are allotted to sponsor VIPs, but they rarely use them all or put the unused tickets back in the system. It happens in almost all Olympic regions, which caused me to wonder why John Furlong, was surprised to learn it happened in Turin. It's not news. If you want good seats in 2010 look to sponsors like Bell, RBC, HBC, Rona, PetroCanada, GM, CTV, and Rogers. They will all have prime tickets and they will have them by the thousands.

Olympic organizations also run a string of special ticketing promotions to boost sales that include series sales (for example you must buy a package that includes three events or more), to country promotions and membership packages. They even promote 'Season Pass-like' packages. Tickets are sold through "mail order, in malls, door-to-door," and in conjunction with promotions where, for example, a purchaser can win an "Olympian-For-A-Day" prize.

It's also typical of Olympic organizations to boost or decrease ticket pricing relative to the popularity of the first run of ticket sales. If they underestimate the popularity of an event and the first tickets they market sell quickly, they have been known to inflate the price for the rest of the tickets. When this is done at a normal concert or event patrons go crazy because tickets in row Z could cost more than in AA. Olympic organizations aren't too concerned though with what patrons think because it is very hard for people to figure out who pays what when there are so many complex packages being sold around the world.

Secrecy once again plays a huge role in ticket pricing. On the other end of the spectrum when ticket sales are slow volunteers are given more tickets than they can use and are told to give them away to family and friends. Although in Turin, they were so disorganized they couldn't get it together so many events looked barren. In the traditional world of entertainment it's called 'papering the house.' The 'gift' to the volunteers is positioned so it looks like Olympic organizations are good guys taking care of their flock, when in reality Olympic organizers are in panic mode because venues will look empty and they need bodies in the seats to avoid embarrassment.

Athens 2004 was also so poorly managed they too never leveraged this strategy effectively. Many events looked almost empty. Again, secrecy is of the utmost importance because if it looks like Olympic organizations are 'papering the event' unaccredited media will go crazy reporting it as a failure. Perception is nine tenths of the law in the promotion game. Olympic organizations will also sit on tickets with the hope they will increase in value. In Sydney it was referred to as "executive scalping." Eight hundred thousand (800,000) tickets were held and eventually offered to wealthy private club members who were willing to pay on average two and a half times the price printed on the ticket. Average citizens become upset because they were told they could purchase tickets at face value in reasonable quantities. (hjl78)

___________________________ next excerpt

Ticketing incongruities in Sydney were so serious the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission investigated the process. The law firm Clayton Utz and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu on behalf of the NSW Legislative Assembly also did an independent review. The investigations reported "management and oversight failures, lack of transparency, carelessness and an absence of internal controls and safeguards predominantly in regard to ticket inventory." According to the IOC, Sydney was supposed to be, 'the best Games ever'. In resulting Herald articles SOCOG was portrayed as having a "culture of secrecy and lack of accountability." Olympic spin-masters turned the scandal around to make it sound like Aussies were enthusiastic to purchase tickets and that the weight of the system caused them to experience uncharacteristic challenges. Instead of an apology to the public the best they could come up with was to admit that they "might have overdone themselves." Media had a field day with it locally and around the world. A Nielson poll indicated that tickets were overpriced and that only nine percent of households with gross incomes of more than $30,000 planned to purchase tickets. With only a year to go before the spectacle, in panic mode Olympic organizations circulated ticket order forms to media and residents in local regions, plus to wealthy residential areas on the south Queensland coast. It wasn't until the bitter end that tickets were offered to low income people at a rate they could afford. Olympic organizations felt that to offer tickets to low-income families would be unfair to the rest of the population, but they did offer special concessions for wealthy purchasers. It was a clear double standard and the media ran with it. By June of 2000 only about 109,000 tickets were sold and the panic meter jumped a notch, but still the local Olympic committee refused to reduce ticket prices for low-income households. Leaders in social services felt local Olympic organizations were being "mean-spirited." By this time the ticketing program was investigated a second time due to complaints that Visa held a monopoly as a sponsor and wanted all tickets to be purchased only using their credit card. After a bit of controversy they agreed to also accept checks and cash. Nice guys. (hjl79)

___________________________ next excerpt

Everyone in an Olympic region gets in the ticket-selling game including students, parents and the school system, whether they want to or not. The public school system in most countries is already stressed, and adding a heavier workload severely impacts their primary mandate, which is to improve the educational experience for children. Olympic organizations don't see it that way. They see the public school system as an organized association with a captive audience.

___________________________ next excerpt

Everyone leverages the frenzy, including athletes. In Sydney an Olympian swimmer got so wrapped up in the excitement he went into business scalping tickets at up to five times the price printed on the tickets. Olympians were offered blocks of tickets at face value, but were warned they could not scalp them. Olympic organizations intervened and stopped the scalping, but the point is, everyone leverages their position, even Olympians. Create workarounds to leverage opportunities. In retrospect, maybe he should have set up a shell company like the official Olympic clothing manufacturer did in Australia to hide sweatshops. (hjl81)

___________________________ next excerpt

... and don't think if they close down your business around the events that you will be able to take a little time off to partake in the sports activities. Some business owners not only hire extra security, they also sleep on their premises for the duration of the Games in order to protect their property. Wait until you see ticket prices too, and discover how hard it is to get a 'good' seat for an event. You also have to order some tickets at least two years in advance. Hopefully your local Olympic committee will not only adopt the Sydney 2000 ticket pricing strategy of sixty dollars per event, but this time around they will also manage it ethically. Fair market ticket prices will go a long way in selling out venues and assuring everyone, including locals, that they can be a part of the legacy. Unfortunately, like airline pricing, the sixty-dollar seat sale in Sydney was not the deal it seemed - more on this later.

___________________________ next excerpt

For years recording artists and consumers have maintained, and rightly so, that record companies do not share profits fairly -CDs are priced too high and too little profit goes to the artist. Olympic athletes are also complaining that the big box Olympic machine is making billions while they struggle to find funds to train and eat. Sports fans also complain because they are being subject to higher and higher fees for event tickets, hotel rooms, and food during Olympic events. It is a big business gouging and feeding frenzy.

___________________________ next excerpt

Some volunteers in Sydney were also promised a single ticket to an Olympic event. Maybe not the event of their choice or even on a day they could go, but they were promised one ticket. They were special. What they didn't know was that they were given tickets as an inducement to becoming a volunteer, and the tickets were only offered when it was clear volunteer registration fell well below expectations. The American Express "Membership has its Privileges" slogan appeals to a base instinct and manifests itself in a number of advertising campaigns. Sports teams are masters at attracting rabid sports fans and so are POP Stars. It is a psychological mass hypnosis that takes over one's rational mind. In part it is a cult of some good intentions, but the downside is the Olympics usually wreak financial havoc in a region, and it is why it is so important to figure out how to make it work economically for you. If you have to pay for it, you should benefit too. (hl72b, 117)

___________________________ next excerpt

Many locals have no interest in or cannot attend Olympic events, but they are still interested in special events and they will come to "party." [Anne] Popma made an interesting comment in this regard when she pointed out that visitors to a region hold little interest for local politicians, but a politician will tend to get involved if locals are part of the mix. She reports that "seventy-five percent of the 400,000 tickets purchased" in Salt Lake City for cultural events were by "locals living within a forty-five minute radius." In many cases it was the only connection they had with the Games. (ap13 - ap is Anne Popma)

___________________________ next excerpt

Considering that ALL Olympic events have a hard time selling tickets, it would be a good idea to instead launch the festival in mid-July of 2009 as opposed to January 2010. If the festival was run during the preceding summer, not only would we have an opportunity to showcase our province in a dry, warm period, but it would also give us lead to time to sell more tickets. Plus, it would help attract tourists during that six-month ghost town period every Olympic region is forced to suffer through. It would also give the construction industry even more incentive to complete projects on time.

___________________________ next excerpt

Everyone in the local community must be given the first option to purchase the 'best' seats at Olympic events and the cost must be priced according to regular sporting and entertainment fees in the region. Low-income residents must also be offered free tickets for events.

... end of excerpts

One other thing different this time around is that now YOU know what other regions have reccently suffered through. VANOC and The Vancouver Sun had access to this information years ago, but did they share? No. Instead they are turning it into a cult-fest. You've been warned.

The Olympics business model is broken, and if we
don't take serious steps to fix it nothing will change.

If you want to know how to submit ticket requests to VANOC
to improve your odds of seeing the 2010 Games - contact me.

If you want the whole 2010 story, please read my book.

Talk to us before you talk to them ... - the book

Have a comment?


Citizen Journalism

We don't
BREAK the News
We FIX it!

Talk to us before you talk to them.
Leverage Olympic Momentum

Available at Duthie Books
4th Avenue in Vancouver Kits

1st printing no longer available at
CHAPTERS locations in Vancouver

Inukshuk Vancouver / Whistler

Own the Podium?

The official creed (guiding principle) of the Olympics is a quote by the founding father of the modern day Games Baron de Coubertin. He said, "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."

The Olympic motto consists of three Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius, which means, "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The 1924 motto is meant to encourage athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their individual abilities.

No where does it imply that winning the most gold medals for your country is part of the agenda. In fact it implies exactly the opposite.

The IOC maintains that it doesn't actively encourage countries to collectively win the most gold medals, but on the other hand they also don't institute anything to ensure that the Games are not turned into corporate money grabs.

In fact, IOC sponsorship and partnership business models encourage a win-at-all-costs mentality. It is the reason they have doping, fraud and bribery scandals.

The IOC invites young people to compete in the Olympics using the original Creed & Motto. But when it comes to delivering on the promise they fall incredibly short.

The Olympics today isn't as much about sport as it is about money and profit.

Priorities changed over the years and so too should their Creed & Motto.

If athletes go for the gold, and the IOC goes for the gold, and corporate sponsors go for the gold, and governments go for the gold, and considering that you will have to foot the bill for their gold, why should you be edged out of the race?

Move to the starting line.

Own the Podium?
Own Your Home?

Real journalism consists of
what someone doesn't want published,
all the rest is public relations."
George Orwell

Terms of Use
© 2003-2007 Area46
Media Communications

Site Design by