When the on-sale started for London Olympics 2012 tickets on 15th March, media coverage started reporting problems based on the exclusive deal with Visa and confusion by the public on how the ticket sales process would work. The initial glitch over card expiry dates has been fixed. Paul Williamson and organising committee colleagues have defended the process, though apparently not appeased critics.

Visa came into heavy criticism from the public when the on-sale started for the London 2012 Olympics on Tuesday 15th March, amidst confusion about the purchase process. People were surprised initially that only Visa debit or credit cards could be used for payment. This was a benefit granted to Visa as a major sponsor of the Games. Then cardholders discovered that they could not complete the application process if their Visa card expired before August 2011. The latter turned out to reflect the timings of the purchase process.

The on-sale is in fact an application to purchase tickets, and, once all applications have been received by 26 April, there will be a ballot to allocate the available tickets. By mid May this will enable organisers to establish the charge to be made to each successful applicant, and the card processing will run from mid May to mid June. This does mean of course that cardholders will need to maintain adequate credit to cover their maximum possible ticket purchase through the processing period. Successful applicants, if their card payments are also processed successfully, will be advised in July of their allocation of tickets.

Visa moved quickly to fix the card expiry date glitch, and by Monday 21st March applications for cards expiring after April 2011 will be accepted, they say. However, applicants whose cards expire in April 2011 will have to wait until their card issuer supplies their new card before they can make their application. The organisers point that their deadline is 26 April and new cards are normally issued well before the month of expiry.

Despite their informative website and widespread advance media coverage, the London organising committee have found themselves criticised by the public, with adverse coverage of the complexity of the application and purchase process. For example, The Guardian had a feature piece on the ramifications of the process. And Paul Williamson appeared on BBC Radio 4’s MoneyBox programme to explain the process, meeting bewilderment from the interviewer about why it was being run in this way.

The wait to be issued their physical tickets, and the six month gap before successful applicants can re-sell their tickets through the official London 2012 scheme, seems to surprise some, yet in Vancouver for example, the re-sale scheme only started four weeks before the Winter Olympics. This is designed to stop touting and force re-sales to be only at face value. Perhaps people applying for tickets in the hope of re-selling them are only just realising the process is carefully planned and controlled to impede them at every turn.