London Olympics Criticism

LONDON (AP) - The second round of ticket sales for the 2012
London Olympics drew fresh public criticism within hours of its
launch on Friday for the slowness of the website.

Thousands of people across Britain rose at dawn to get online
for an early start in bidding, and discovered the site was working
- but very sluggishly.

Olympic organizers urged ticket hopefuls to be patient - and to
not hit the refresh button too often.

"This frantic Friday has created the biggest rush ever in U.K.
history," said Edward Parkinson, the director of Viagogo, an
online ticket marketplace. "It's even bigger than Michael
Jackson's comeback tour."

The latest chapter in a ticketing mess that has drawn criticism
nationwide because of its complexity and perceived lack of
fairness, comes after two-thirds of ticket seekers failed to earn
any in a first round that ended in April.

The question is sensitive in this time of economic austerity, as
critics have charged that millions have been spent to build
stadiums and otherwise finance the games - only for the public to
be shortchanged when it comes to actually seeing them.

Sensitive to the possible public relations debacle, London
organizers likened Friday's problems - particularly the slow
response on the site - to a train station that needed to modify
traffic in order to keep the whole system running. Sales will
continue for 10 days, with more planned for later.

London 2012 was flooded with 22 million requests in the first
round for the 6.6 million tickets available. The 1.2 million people
who failed to get tickets in the first round received priority on
Friday.

Their enthusiam and the feverish demand for tickets quashed
fears that sales wouldn't go well and early impressions that
British fans weren't excited about their own Olympics.

A barrage of complaints followed the first round of sales.

Thousands of people took part in the complicated process of blindly
submitting requests for tickets in a lottery, together with the
payments for those events.

Critics who feared the empty stands seen at the Beijing Games
need not have worried. As the tickets were awarded, it became clear
that many buyers had been disappointed. Many fans submitted
requests for thousands of pounds (dollars) worth of tickets, only
to end up empty-handed.

So few were successful that London's Evening Standard did a
front-page story featuring a couple which snagged tickets to the
premier event - the men's 100-meter dash. Winners of tickets to
other events described it as akin to Christmas. Britain's powerful
newspapers offered bar charts on who was awarded tickets - together
with grumbling about corporate sponsors given substantial
allocations.

"This is a once-in-a-generation event," said Viagogo's
Parkinson, who added that ticketing was bound to be complicated.
"The reality is that there are more people that want to get
tickets to these events than are available."

But what made many people angry was the fact that the system was
open to manipulation. Some fans put in for thousands of pounds
(dollars) worth of tickets - far more than they could use -
assuming that the more they would ask for, the better chance they
would have of getting some.

Ticket hopeful Tori Hunt, 29, applied for 600 pounds ($960)
worth of tickets - only to get nothing. She intended to try Friday
morning, but upon hearing about issues with the website, thought
she'd wait, thinking that the tickets would be spaced out over the
10-day window for sales. But by mid-afternoon, only boxing,
wrestling, weightlifting, volleyball and football were left.

"It's quite dismaying that some people got so many," she said.
"Given that it's a public event with public money, they should
have put a cap on the number of tickets."

Even some of the nation's top athletes missed out. Three-time
Olympic cycling champion Bradley Wiggins, who hopes to defend his
team pursuit title, was one of the 1.2 million people who missed
out on tickets in the first ballot. He called the allocation "a
bit of a shambles."

"I'd love to have my family there. I grew up in London and
would love to have my mum and everyone there watching me but, you
know, that's the way it is I suppose, you just get on with it," he
told the BBC. "It's a shame but there's nothing you can do about
it."


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