Are 2004 ticket purchasing procedures transparent?

he Athens 2004 Organizing committee has announced the process with which tickets will be distributed for the 2004 Olympics in the European Union (www.athens2004.com/tickets). There are two important omissions in the process that threaten to undermine the reliability and transparency of the upcoming selection process. a.) The number of tickets to be awarded per price category (A, B, C) for each event session has not been announced. The public does not know whether, for example, the afternoon swimming session on August 17, 2004, will have available 100 or 10,000 category «A» tickets. Without this knowledge, ordering tickets is quite difficult and one cannot help but feel that surprises lurk. When one is asked to pay 950 euros for category «A» tickets for the opening ceremony (vs 100 euros for the cheapest seats), that information matters a lot. Notice that knowledge of these numbers is necessary for the organizers, because otherwise they cannot perform the electronic awarding of tickets to applicants in July 2004. So it is surprising and unfortunate that these numbers have not been announced to the public. b.) It has been announced that the process of distributing tickets to awardees will take place in 2004. That is, the people who, for example, have been awarded category «B» tickets for the afternoon swimming session on August 17, 2004 will learn which exact seat they will get in mid-2004. That is OK, except that no details of this process have been made known to the public. Who decides exactly which of the awardees gets which one of the thousands of category «B» tickets for the particular session? Given the often significant difference in the desirability of the tickets, the process needs to be transparent and impartial, and known in advance of ticket ordering. Government-administered or -sponsored activities in Greece, be it public works or state-sponsored theater festivals, have traditionally suffered from influence-peddling and favoritism at the expense of the public. The Greek people are thus conditioned to think that problems such as the ones I describe are not really problems, but opportunities to accommodate friends of the regime and the organizing committee with better tickets after the original ticket distribution takes place, at the expense of the thousands of dutiful participants in this process worldwide. It would be great if the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee could help dispel that notion quickly and ensure a fair ticketing process for this very important event. VASILIS VASSALOS, Assistant Professor, Information Systems, Stern School of Business, NYU, New York, NY.