There is much to admire about Channel 4's Dispatches series, given that its been a staple of their programming schedule for nearly 25 years, with five Royal Television Society awards to boot.
So expectations were high in the run-up to Monday's transmission which was to focus on one of London 2012's most divisive issues: ticketing. As it is was, Antony Barnett and his team proceeded to waste an hour with a hotchpotch of reheated goods to work-up the masses, one interesting revelation and a conclusion that really wasn't a huge surprise.
On that interesting revelation, Dispatches deserve some credit. It would be entirely wrong for a ticketing or hospitality provider to have access to the Olympic lanes during the games given the designation they are intended for.
Where Dispatches excelled in being lazy and cliched was around the tired arguments of ticket allocations. As a viewer, and Olympic ticket-hunter, I hoped they would use their expertise to dissect previous Olympics to provide a definitive answer to the question everyone critical asks: how could LOCOG have done it differently? Even with the assistance of UMich Professor Stefan Szymanski, they failed, instead focusing on the very upper echelon of ticket categories and the hospitality elements built around them.
It was a total non-story, produced for an audience they believed had never been to a sports event or concert in their lives. Barnett willingly jabbed viewers in the ribs throwing in mentions of "taxpayers" and "two-tier Games" as SHOCK HORROR, the best tickets cost a lot of money! And THE SHAME, as the likely demographic of people buying category 'A' or 'AA' seats are likely to have the income and interest to buy hospitality packages as well. Because front row seats in Formula 1 cost tuppence...
Queue the cliched cut-away to a stock 'East End legacy youth' and his supportive father; and how they didn't get any tickets through the London 2012 ballot (it was laughable as earlier, a series of vox pops cancelled each other out in terms of public opinion on how the original ballot worked out).
Here's the rub. Barnett kept blathering on about the Men's 100m Final; it's pretty much the marquee event of any Olympic Games. And if you took his word as his bond, all those tickets went to hospitality companies such as Jet Set Sports and Thomas Cook. I applied for the session which included the 100m Final in the original ballot - and I didn't get it. A reported one million also tried. So a very select few, across all ticket categories were successful.
While one could despair - and I did momentarily - through a very supportive community on social media networks I learnt more about the legitimate rules and regulations all National Olympic Committees and their appointed resellers have to follow. Fast forward six months later, and I got my 100m Final tickets from an official Dutch reseller. And not for 'fat cat' money. And if you want to do the same, you can. There are loads of official EU resellers who have to sell to Britons in the same way we have to sell to them.
And I commend that fantastic community of fans and supporters of both the Olympics and London 2012. They are out there and are willing to help anyone who genuinely wants it. Indeed Dispatches chose to close on the story of Denis Clayton, a pensioner who has been to every Olympic Games since 1960 but didn't get tickets through the official London 2012 ballot. I have it on good authority that some of the fan community had attempted to reach out to him directly even before Dispatches, as his story had already circulated through the regional press.
As for Channel 4, perhaps they should spend less time lining Charlie Brooker's pockets (we get it, you're obsessed with him) and perhaps start making good on all the promises they made to the Paralympic community in their role as lead broadcaster for London 2012. There were a lot of fantastic Paralympic tickets left unsold after the conclusion of the winter sale earlier this month: weren't C4 as part of delivering "a lasting legacy, including altering public attitudes to disability and disability sport" meant to be challenging this?
Dispatches, over to you.
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