Like many people I had the frustration of trying to buy Olympic tickets (remember, I’m a tennis fan!) in the days leading up to the Games, only to find that tickets had been sold by the time I’d got through the application procedure. The whole ticketing procedure was a mess – we inadvertently disqualified ourselves from some of the early rounds (which were on sale only to the ticketless) by having bought tickets for the football, which was so undersubscribed we could have walked up and bought them on the gate on the day.
But above all there was the frustration of seeing banks of empty seats at events I’d have loved to attend, representing tickets allocated to sponsors etc. and not used. May I suggest for Rio 2016 the following procedure?
Give sponsors and the other ‘Olympic family’ not actual tickets, but a voucher which the recipient (the person going to the Games) has to exchange for a real ticket by a given date, say 6 weeks before the Games begin. Tickets corresponding to vouchers which have not been converted in this way by the deadline go on sale to the public. Of course setting up the mechanism for converting vouchers to tickets costs money, but some of that at least would be recouped by the sale of the unconverted tickets which would otherwise have been unused. And there is value in having pictures of full stadia, swimming pools and other venues to beam around the world on TV, rather than embarrassingly unfilled areas.
While I’m on the subject, there was the usual mess with modern pentathlon, where it makes a huge amount of difference how well an athlete gets on with a horse they have just ridden for the first time. I’ve nothing against equestrian events in the Games, but this much randomness is farcical. Why not make the modern pentathlon really modern and have the competitors race cars or do karting (say), rather than ride a horse?