Are sponsors and officials getting one in five Olympics tickets?

31 July 2012

"In fact, only around 7 to 8 per cent of the money being spent on the London Olympics is coming from private sponsors. But they get a lot more than 7 per cent of the seats — around 13 per cent in total, 20 per cent if the Olympic Family are included"

Daily Telegraph, 30 July 2012

"Eight per cent of tickets have been made available to sponsors and 75% per cent to the public. Another 12% go to National Olympic Committees and 5% to the Olympic family - people like IOC officials and the media."

BBC News, 30 July 2012

With the Olympics now in full swing, a cloud of controversy has already descended on the organisers as just about every major media outlet has highlighted the number of empty seats in multiple Olympic venues.

This has provoked questions regarding ticket allocation with Olympic sponsors receiving much of the blame for the empty seats.

Yesterday, however, one Full Fact reader pointed out that the BBC and the Telegraph were at odds with regard to the number of tickets being offered to sponsors of the Games.

According to the Telegraph, private sponsors receive 'around 13 per cent' of tickets in total, with the figure rising to '20 per cent if the Olympic Family are included' while the BBC claimed that 8 per cent of tickets have gone to sponsors, 5 per cent to the Olympic family and 12 per cent to National Olympic Committees across the world.


Most of the relevant figures are provided in a media fact pack released by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Locog), who state:

"A total of 11 million tickets are available for both Games, 8.8m [later reduced to 8.3 million with the withdrawal of 500,000 football tickets] Olympic and 2.2m Paralympic...

"75% of Olympic tickets (and 75% of Paralympic tickets) are available to the public through the UK application process... Of the rest:

"12% are for purchase through National Olympic Committees, primarily by international sports fans (around 1 million tickets)

"13% are for purchase by sponsors, stakeholders, Broadcast Rights Holders, the IOC, International Federations, Prestige Ticketing partners and Thomas Cook"  

This would appear to substantiate most of the BBC's claim, although the broadcaster also breaks the 13 per cent down into 8 for sponsors and 5 for the 'Olympic Family'. While these breakdowns aren't provided in published data from Locog, its Chairman Lord Coe has been quoted as confirming the 8 per cent figure.

So what about the Telegraph's figures?

We contacted the author of the article in question to see if he could clear things up for us. He said it was widely reported that 1.1 million tickets were reserved for sponsors and indicated that adding the Olympic family to this total gave 20 per cent overall.

Sure enough, 1.1 million is 13.25 per cent of the 8.3 million tickets overall. This could well be referring to the "sponsors, stakeholders, Broadcast Rights Holders, the IOC, International Federations, Prestige Ticketing partners and Thomas Cook" category quoted by Locog.

However this doesn't only refer to sponsors and covers a wider cross-section of ticket recipients, so its difficult to see how the Telegraph columnist's argument here can be substantiated for sponsors alone.

Who are the 'Olympic family'?

What isn't yet clear is where the five per cent allocated to the 'Olympic family' originally comes from, other than being cited by the BBC and indeed the Telegraph elsewhere. Locog helpfully provide the definition of this family:

"The 'Olympic Family' is a term used by the IOC to describe a wide range of accredited personnel. The IOC categorises the Olympic Family into six broad client groups as follows:

  • National Olympic Committees (NOC), athletes and team officials;
  • workforce;
  • media;
  • International Federations (IF);
  • International Olympic Committee (IOC)
  • Marketing Partners"

Most of these seem to fit within Locog's 13 per cent, which explicity includes IFs, the IOC, the media and marketing partners. It isn't clear whether some of the NOC athletes and officials would fall into the 12 per cent category for ticketing through NOC 'primarily by international sports fans'.

Assuming the Olympic family does fit neatly into the 13 per cent, this explains where the 8 per cent for sponsors and 5 per cent for the family come from in generating the 13 per cent overall share.

However whether or not this is precisely the case, there is no evidence that sponsors and the Olympic family combined account for one fifth of all tickets. For this reason we can't trust this figure until evidence is presented.


The BBC's calculations on the whole reflect the published ticket allocations from Locog. Chairman Lord Coe has confirmed that 8 per cent are for sponsors in particular, hence leading to the assumption that the remaining 5 per cent are for 'Olympic family' members. From the definition provided of the family, this isn't an unreasonable assumption to make.

However while the available figures aren't explicitly clear about the Olympic family's allocation, the Telegraph's numbers don't match the published statistics from Locog. There is no evidence at this stage that sponsors and Locog combined account for one fifth of all the tickets, although we welcome further clarification from the Telegraph on this issue.

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