Peter Williams: My family was unwittingly caught up in Olympic ticket scam


The developing scandal around the Irish Olympic Committee and its long-time boss Pat Hickey over ticket scalping has me wondering.

It is both the Rio Games and the hunger games for our presenter at the Olympics.

Source: 1 NEWS

Has my family been unwittingly caught up in some dodgy business with resold tickets?

Here's our story.

Back in February when I was appointed by ONE News to work here in Rio during the games, my wife decided she'd come over for the final weekend and then we'd go sightseeing for a few days afterwards.

As she's a basketball fan, she decided to get a ticket for the men's final knowing that it would probably involve the NBA superstar-laden Team USA.

So she went online, to what she thought was the official site of the games to buy the ticket.

A ticket was bought and paid for and she received a confirmation. The amount - a four figure sum - was duly charged to her credit card.

As she's a very independent person, I didn't pay too much attention to the purchase.

I should have.

For a start, the purchase was made with a MasterCard.

You can't buy anything to do with Olympics unless you pay with Visa.

The confirmation email said the ticket would arrive at her New Zealand address two weeks before the games started.

Suffice to say, it didn't.

We had been scammed.

My fears were confirmed when I read an article in The Guardian about the website she'd purchased from -

The article said the site's operators had used technology to get above the official site on Google searches and had scammed hundreds of thousands of dollars from unsuspecting punters around the world.

My wife came to Rio without a ticket and knowing she'd been scammed.

Before she left, and after I'd rung the (disconnected) phone numbers they'd provided on their website, she fired off an email to the address provided, suggesting they were scum and that they should spend time behind bars etc etc.

At least, she thought, if I'm going to be scammed I can give someone a gob full - if anyone will ever read it.

Well somebody must have read it.

When she arrived in Rio, a mysterious person contacted her saying he had the ticket and it was available to be picked up.

This smelt even more suspicious.

The arrangement was to meet a man at Starbucks in Ipanema at midday.

She didn't go of course. Instead I went with our security man Jamie and our picture editor Leo, who is Brazilian.

Frankly, we had no hopes of actually getting a ticket. In fact, we thought we may have been walking into some kind of criminal activity but thought there may have been a news story in it if there was some trouble.

The contact had sent a photo of himself. We recognised him straight away in the Starbucks.

Unbelievably, he had a ticket for the men's basketball final.

I opened the envelope. The ticket looked real.

The guy said his name was Darius. He lived in the USA but said he was German originally.

He seemed a pleasant enough chap. We asked him where the ticket had come from.

He then proceeded to tell us that the two most corrupt organisations in the world are the IOC and FIFA.

Various National Olympic Committees get a ticket allocation from the IOC at each Olympics. They are to be used to distribute or sell to sponsors, supporters and athletes' families.

But many of the National Olympic Committee tickets are not used, so the NOC officials move them on the the "resellers" - otherwise known as scalpers.

Where the profits from that " resale" actually go, nobody knows. But it's highly unlikely the NOC itself, or individual sports federations, will benefit.

Most likely it's an official or officials from the NOC who take the profits.

That's why the Irish Olympic boss is languishing in a Rio prison - awaiting further developments.

As for my wife's ticket - well who knows where it came from, and who was supposed to use it.

All I know is that, through carelessness and naivety, we paid a four figure sum for a ticket with a face value of about $NZ175.

But thankfully, it worked.

She had it scanned twice at the checkpoints on the way into the basketball final, and passed through successfully.

So she watched Kevin Durant and Draymond Green and Klay Thompson and their team mates whip Serbia.

She said it a great experience, but noted there were many empty seats.

We were a bit dumb being scammed by a non-official website, but we'll know better next time. Always use Visa at the Olympics.

But where did the profit between $175 and the four figure sum go?

Who would know, but the arrest of Pat Hickey raises many, many questions.

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