The Question: What’s going on with Olympic tickets?

Kevin Mallon of THG Sports was arrested in Rio over an alleged illegal ticket-selling scheme. Fraud seems to have become a perennial threat for big sporting events

Real deal: Rio Olympics gymnastics tickets. Photograph: PA Wire

Real deal: Rio Olympics gymnastics tickets. Photograph: PA Wire

 

The arrest of Kevin Mallon, a Dubliner, in Rio de Janeiro in connection with an alleged illegal ticket-selling scheme at the Olympics has added a further whiff of scandal to the Games.

Mallon, an employee of the UK company THG Sports, was in possession of 813 tickets for high-profile sporting events at the Games, as well as for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Ticketing fraud seems to be a perennial issue for major sporting events: a senior Fifa official was investigated for a large-scale ticket scam related to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where THG’s then chief executive, James Sinton, was among a number of ticket sellers detained for the illegal sale of hospitality packages.

According to Olympics organisers, about 80 per cent of the 6.1 million available tickets have been sold for these Games, which lags well behind the ticket sales for London and Beijing.

Given all the empty seats at events so far, it’s not clear exactly who Mallon might have been selling the tickets to.

The locals are not exactly flocking to the Games, for a number of reasons. First, even though ticket prices are half what they were in London, many Brazilians just can’t afford them – tickets for tonight’s athletics cost €110.

Second, the Olympics are really an elaborate exercise in positively channelled nationalism, but the opportunities to roar on Team Brazil are not quite as plentiful as for Team GB in 2012, say. This has dented local interest, particularly as the men’s soccer team struggles to get its samba on.

The larger pattern of ticket fraud at major sporting events, however, is harder to resolve. With highly valuable and transferable assets distributed through national sporting federations, some degree of fraudulent reselling seems almost inevitable.

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