Friday, August 10, 2012

Not Even a Bronze Medal for the Command-and-Control Approach to Olympic Tickets in London

The Fan Freedom Project has been tracking the Summer Olympic ticket fiasco, here's a sample of links below that document how despite the high demand for tickets, there have been a lot of half-empty stadiums because of the lack of an efficient secondary market for tickets.  The economic lesson is that any shortage or surplus is almost always the result of a failure to allow market pricing, and/or preventing markets to operate.     

1. "No Gold Medal for Olympic Ticket Market" - These Olympics provide a disturbing snapshot of what happens when event organizers stack the deck against ordinary fans and try to stop the free market from working.

2. "The London Olympics Ticketing Fiasco" -- A San Francisco woman says she had a "carpe diem" moment (gotta love that) last week and decided at the last minute to attend  the Summer Olympics in London with her two sons.  She reports:

"Booking the flight and hotel room was simple. There was plenty of room on the direct flight from San Francisco to London. We got a great deal at a hotel. Getting tickets to the events? Not so easy."

After describing the details of her difficulties getting tickets, she concludes:

"My hope is that the next Olympic host city outsources their ticketing operations to Amazon.com, or another online retailer that knows a thing or two about high volume Internet commerce. And, hey, corporate sponsors and members of the "Olympic family," give us commoners a break. If you aren't using your tickets, be kind enough to re-sell them. There are a lot of eager buyers out there."

3. From The Economist: "Bring on the Touts" (British term for scalpers):  The author observes that "A command-and-control approach to Olympic tickets works no better than a command-and-control approach to any other market," and he blames the half-empty stadiums on Olympic organizers and Britain’s politicians "for refusing to allow a market in tickets."

Bottom Line: The market for tickets, like all markets, is a harsh mistress.  Attempts to ignore or circumvent incontrovertible market forces will be punished with severe and predictable consequences: shortages, surpluses, and inefficiencies. 

3 Comments:

At 8/10/2012 11:26 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

I'd say that there is a Gold Medal for the effort to erase scalping.

Bring the touts on to prison - and let the sales of at-level or less tickets begin.

 
At 8/11/2012 1:16 PM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

Corporate sponsors are not capitalists (oddly enough), but people who expect and get guarantees. They do not sell their unused tickets because they do not need the 100 bucks or 100 quid. ("Sod you, Jack. I got mine.") Even worse are the IOC and national committee people from cultures that do not honor the marketplace. Perhaps the best solution would be to give them chits, scrip, or tokens for tickets rather than tickets. Then, if they want to come to the Games, they can enjoy their (well-deserved) bonuses, but if they miss the matches, the tickets can be sold.

Like much else from that aristocratic era, the Olympics come with anti-capitalist prejudices that stripped Jim Thorpe of his medals for a summer of paid baseball while in college. Of course, now professionals do compete. Also, the lines were blurred irreparably when Soviet Bloc nations made athletes into workers paid by the state. Olympic athletes in market nations are subsidized by families and friends and tennis shoe makers all along the way. The myth this that these are leisurely classed people competing for pure sport. The reality is that this is a market like any other -- and really as many markets in one as are embodied in a simple pencil.

 
At 8/11/2012 2:33 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"Bring the touts on to prison - and let the sales of at-level or less tickets begin."

Why do you believe the price printed on a ticket is the correct one?

 

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