IOC tightens links with bookmakers to tackle fixing

SOCHI, Russia Tue Feb 4, 2014 12:25pm EST

Olympic skiers take part in a biathlon training session for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games at the ''Laura'' cross-country and biathlon centre in Rosa Khutor February 4, 2014 REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Olympic skiers take part in a biathlon training session for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games at the ''Laura'' cross-country and biathlon centre in Rosa Khutor February 4, 2014

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Gambling company Betfair has signed an information sharing agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to support efforts to prevent betting corruption from tarnishing the Games.

The Olympics, both winter and summer, have not traditionally attracted a lot of interest from gamblers and have been free of the fixing scandals seen elsewhere in sports such as soccer and cricket.

However, the IOC is aware of the threat of fixing and will operate a new centralized system at the Sochi Winter Games starting this week to monitor betting patterns in coordination with gambling companies.

"The interests of sports governing bodies, like the IOC, and Betfair are completely aligned in wanting to ensure customers can bet in fair, transparent and secure markets on exciting sporting events," Betfair spokesman James Midmer said on Tuesday.

Betfair, which allows customers to gamble online against each other, says it plans to offer more than 1,000 betting markets during the Winter Olympics, with ice hockey and Alpine skiing expected to be the most popular sports.

Besides Betfair, the IOC has a similar agreement in place with the European Sports Security Association, a group linking bookmakers including leading British companies William Hill and Ladbrokes

"We are very pleased with these agreements, which build on our successful collaboration during London 2012," said IOC communications director Mark Adams.

William Hill said the Winter Olympics was a small event for it and likely to have total turnover of only around 500,000 pounds ($815,000) across the two weeks of action.

"These markets therefore have low liquidity and it is extremely easy to spot strange betting patterns - but we believe that it is highly unlikely that we will see any issues," a company spokesman said.

Eight women badminton players were disqualified at the London Olympics in 2012 for throwing matches. Their motivation was to try to manipulate the draw and was not linked to betting.

($1 = 0.6123 British pounds)

(Editing by Stephen Wood)

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