Olympics-London organisers accused of obsession with secrecy

LONDON, March 7 Wed Mar 7, 2012 9:33am EST

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LONDON, March 7 (Reuters) - London Olympic organisers were accused of being "obsessed with secrecy" during a tetchy grilling by lawmakers over ticketing policy on Wednesday after they refused to provide details until after this summer's Games.

At one of the most acrimonious meetings at the London Assembly, the London organising committee's chief executive Paul Deighton and chairman Sebastian Coe were repeatedly accused of a lack of transparency in ticket pricing and allocation.

The pair hit back by saying the situation was evolving and complicated, and it would be misleading and inaccurate to give details at this stage with four million Olympic and Paralympic tickets still to be sold.

"You are the least transparent organisation I have ever come across in the eight years I have been on the London Assembly," assembly member Dee Doocey said.

"You can give us the information at the press of a button, it's all computerised, there is absolutely no excuse why you don't give us this information."

Disquiet has grown among London politicians and British media about LOCOG's perceived lack of transparency.

Members are concerned that after seven million tickets have been sold, it is still not clear how many have been sold for each event and at what price, making it impossible to verify that cheaper tickets have been spread out equally across all events and not just dumped on the least popular sports.

There are also concerns that the best tickets for events such as cycling have been reserved for sponsors.

Doocey said LOCOG was wrong to hide behind sponsor confidentiality and data protection.

Another member John Biggs said: "Somebody described LOCOG as actually being Lord Coe's Olympic Games rather than something more public than that, because it does seem like a closed oligopoly that is allocating things on a very unaccountable and non-transparent basis."

LOCOG, responsible for staging the Games, is largely privately funded, raising its two billion pounds through sponsorship, ticket sales and merchandising.

But it has recently seen its public funding jump to pay for greater security as well as more spectacular opening and closing ceremonies.

"I am not going to divert the attention of my teams who still have four million tickets to sell and revenue targets to meet because that is how we fund the Games," Coe said.

"I am not going to take them off that focus to work on every single client group for every single session, and we're talking about 1,000 sessions."

About 2.5 million tickets will be 20 pounds or less and two-thirds 50 pounds or under, Coe said.

"I am sorry but we are being entirely transparent here," he added. (Reporting by Avril Ormsby; editing by Martyn Herman)

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