As the first London Olympics 2012 venue is completed – the Velodrome – the organising committee have announced tough anti-touting measures ready for tickets going on sale on 15 March 2011. And Advertising Standards bans re-seller Seatwave’s “guaranteed delivery” promise.

The Olympics are different, and while the UK usually offers limited consumer protection against ticket-touting practices, there are special rules and regulations for the London Olympics in 2012. London 2012 Chairman Lord Coe says everything will be done to ensure the “greatest sporting event on earth” does not become “the greatest scam on earth”.

Tickets go on sale 15 March 2011 – over a year ahead – and yet the police anti-touting Operation Podium has already made 32 arrests. LOCOG, the London organising committee, is adding a url checker on their website so that the public can go there and check that anyone offering Olympic tickets is official. Tickets can only be purchased from official sources.

Individuals cannot purchase tickets and re-sell them for a profit. There is a £5,000 fine for re-selling tickets through unauthorised channels for profit. Even e-Bay has promised to cooperate to filter out illegal resales through their sites. Instead, as provided for the Vancouver Winter Olympics, there will be an official exchange for people with tickets who cannot attend the event(s). LOCOG is working with the secondary re-sellers and ticket auction sites to ensure they comply with the law and don’t offer tickets for re-sale. Tickets can only be passed between family and friends without any increase in price. High levels of ticket checking will be deployed so that only valid tickets which have not been re-sold will be recognised for admission.

Unfortunately the UK got a bad name during the Beijing Olympics for the number of unofficial sites and unauthorised resales. The police proved unable to shut them down under UK law despite many sports fans being ripped off. Anxious to protect their reputation, LOCOG organisers are taking steps in partnership with the police to find and close unofficial outlets. The Metropolitan Police has a specialist unit dealing with the threat of organised ticket fraud at the Olympics, including bogus websites, fake tickets and touting. “Dawn raids” are promised on known touts once tickets are on sale.

Detective Chief Inspector Nick Downing said: “Any criminal looking to exploit the Olympic economy will come on our radar, we will be watching them and we will target them.” Mr Downing said Operation Podium had compiled a list of “hundreds, moving to thousands” of touts who would be monitored in the run up to the Games. Many of them were persistent operators who had previously targeted the Football World Cup in South Africa, Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the Beijing Olympics. He added: “We don’t believe this is low-level touting, it’s organised crime with a business model and we are looking to disrupt that business by seizing assets.” Google search already shows sites claiming they have tickets for all the Olympic events, including sponsored links.

Interestingly, the UK Advertising Standards Authority has banned re-seller Seatwave’s TV ads which quoted guaranteed delivery of tickets in time for events:

For the 2012 OLympics, the 75% of public tickets will only be available to UK residents on the website, with holiday packages provided by Thomas Cook. Each country has its own official sales channel for its residents.

Depressing that such measures have to be taken to protect ticket purchasers.