Sports fans stung by ‘OL’ ticket site

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A Norwegian website that offered tickets to sporting events at the Olympics in London, called “OL” in Norway, has left customers who paid dearly for them without tickets after all. Hundreds of tickets that Norwegian customers thought they’d bought were seized by police last week, and a top Norwegian Olympic official is calling the ticket nightmare “a scandal.”

Gerhard Heiberg of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is pointing a finger at, among others, representatives for some eastern European Olympic committees who were issued tickets but sold them outside their own countries, presumably at a profit.

“That is strictly forbidden and it’s a scandal,” Heiberg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Wednesday. The practice amounts to ticket scalping, and while that’s not illegal in Norway, Heiberg said Olympic rules allow only those issued the tickets to enter the arenas. Any other holder of the tickets would be denied entry, according to Heiberg. He said the IOC has launched an investigation “and we will get to the bottom of what’s happened.”

Frustration and disappointment
Meanwhile, reports DN, many of the tickets were allegedly sold to the Norwegian company Euroteam, which in turn peddled them over Euroteam’s website, before having the tickets in hand, to sports fans who claim Euroteam’s site looked like an official Olympic site. Olympic ticket sales via the site were later shut down. One Norwegian family had already paid NOK 6,000 (USD 1,000) for six tickets to fencing events, and traveled to London hoping to get the tickets delivered to their hotel when they hadn’t been delivered to their home as expected.

“We have to realize now that we’re not going to get in (to the fencing events),” Erik Storelv, father to a disappointed daughter Sina and son Sven, told DN. He feels frustrated and cheated, after Euroteam promised to deliver tickets that it didn’t have and, according to Heiberg, couldn’t be used.

Many holders of tickets bought through Euroteam won't get into events at arenas like these at the Olympics in London. PHOTO: London 2012

Some of the them, reported DN, are among 143 tickets issued to two eastern European Olympic committees that instead were sent to Euroteam but seized by customs officials at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen on July 19. “We seized 455 tickets in total,” Jan Fredrik Senum of the Romerike Police District told DN, adding that the Polish man caught carrying 143 of them at the airport, Euroteam and a top official for Euroteam have been charged with fraud.

“The charges of serious fraud are filed because the IOC has said the tickets can’t be used by anyone other than those to whom they were issued,” Senum told DN. Norwegian police have no legal means to prevent ticket scalping, but prosecutors have charged Euroteam for selling tickets that couldn’t be used by their buyers. “That’s the background for the charges of fraud that we’re continuing to investigate,” Senum said.

Euroteam customers have complained of difficulty in getting through to officials at the company. “I called 15 to 20 times before I finally could talk to someone,” Storelv said. “They almost laughed at me when I said their site looked like an official Olympic site.” He said he was urged to cancel the tickets, without being told that then he’d only get half his money back. “No one should accept that,” he said.

Euroteam blames police and IOC
Alex Sola of Euroteam confirmed to DN that tickets ordered by customers like the Storelv family are now held by police in Romerike, the municipality where the airport is located. Sola claimed it’s the police seizure that is hurting Euroteam’s customers, and Euroteam itself, and blames the IOC for asking police to shut down Euroteam’s e-mail and website, which is what also hindered Euroteam’s accessibility for customers.

He wrote in an e-mail to DN that Euroteam asked customers like Storelv to cancel their ticket orders “because we thought it correct to inform the customers of the problems we’re experiencing. Many customers want a clarification instead of living with just hopes.”

Sola claimed Euroteam’s website clearly stated that “we are not in any way affiliated with the official organizers, event, team or any official box office” for any event sold on the site. “If that is still misunderstood, we see that we should make this more clear,” he wrote.

Complaints worldwide
It’s not just Norwegian sports fans who thought they’d secured tickets to the Olympics over Euroteam’s site. Norway’s consul in London is also receiving complaints from angry ticket buyers around the world.

“This is a sad situation for those affected, but we at the consulate can’t do anything but refer them to the police,” consul Grethe Knudsen told DN.

On Wednesday, Euroteam’s website was displaying a message that it would refund the costs of tickets to the Olympics that were either not received or rejected at the arenas, upon receipt of a “valid request by the purchaser.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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