A piece by the Guardian‘s Ed Howker raises some interesting questions about the London Olympics. Howker notes that CoSport, no relation to the peer but a subsidiary of another company Jet Set Sports (JSS), has been appointed by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, Ltd as the only approved Authorised Ticket Reseller, to sell individual event tickets, ticket packages and consumer hospitality packages to the citizens of Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Norway, Sweden and the United States. JSS is, as Howker explains, owned by Sead Dizdarevic, a travel operator with a history.
Dizdaervic was investigated by American federal authorities for bribery during the Salt Lake City Games. In return for immunity from prosecution, he eventually turned state witness, testifying at the trial of Salt Lake Olympic directors Tom Welch and David Johnson that he and his sister-in-law had delivered $131,000 in cash contributions to Welch and Johnson in the hope of securing an exclusive hospitality contract with them.
Far from being ostracised from future Games, the organisers of subsequent summer Olympics have taken the view that here was a man that they could do business with. Dizdarevic’s ticket sales are generally estimated to have netted him a cool $70 million in pure profit from the Beijing Olympics (Dizdarevic, it is worth noting, disputes this figure, estimating that his profit on the games was a mere $20-$30 million). At any event, he now has sufficient loose change to have bunged a cool million in the direction of Mitt Romney.
As ever, the super-profits of the rich are not a mere private matter; in order for ultima-touts such as Dizdarevic to flourish, there has to be a market of private tickets, inside which Dizdarevic can operate, offering top-paying clients entrance to (say) the men’s 100 metres final bundled together with hotel rooms, landing spaces for their private jets, etc. You have to recall that only around 1 in 3 tickets for the top Olympics events have been made available for direct purchase; another slice is retained by the IOC for Sports bureaucrats and sponsors, while the third slice of the pie goes to companies such as CoSport.
JSS haven’t just been offering private companies access to niche events, they have also promised that people who buy through them can purchase access to the Olympics Route Network which will be jamming up London for the rest of us. “For the avoidance of doubt”, the CoSport website tells us, “CoSPort coaches have access to the Olympic Route Network (ORN) but do not have access to the dedicated Games Lanes”.
Any happiness that the purchasers of CoSport’s consumer hospitality packages (retailing at c5-£10,000) will be kept out of the Games Lanes, reserved as they are for officials of the various international federations, etc, is tempered by my conviction that the global mega rich will be going to Dizdaervic for bespoke packages (at costs of up to £500,000 per magnate). Those packages, I am certain, will include access to the Lanes.