Olympics 2012: IOC Launch Probe After Allegations Of Officials Selling Tickets On Black Market

A probe was under way tonight into claims of widespread corruption among foreign agents and officials supplying tickets to the London Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee is threatening a radical shake-up of the way Olympic tickets are distributed among its member countries after a Sunday Times investigation suggested officials were offering thousands of top tickets on the black market.

London Olympics chief Lord Coe was dragged into the row after the newspaper secretly filmed Greek national Olympic committee president Spyros Caprolos claiming he had successfully lobbied him for more premium Olympic tickets on Greece's behalf.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog) tonight denied the claims.

The revelations have prompted senior politician Sir Menzies Campbell - a member of the Olympic Board which helps oversee London 2012 - to call for offending countries to lose future allocations of tickets.

He told the BBC: "The sanctions should be not just that the tickets get cancelled for this Olympic Games but that tickets are not awarded on future occasions."

The Sunday Times newspaper has presented a dossier of evidence on agents and officials controlling the tickets for 54 countries.

Thousands of the best seats at the top events - including the 100m final - were up for sale after being siphoned off from official supplies held by overseas national Olympic committees (NOCs), the newspaper said.

National Olympic committees are forbidden to sell their tickets abroad or to anyone who plans to resell them.

But The Sunday Times said undercover reporters posing as envoys of a Middle Eastern ticket tout found 27 officials and agents who were willing to do business.

According to the paper, these included one country's official ticket agency which The Sunday Times claimed offered category AA tickets, the best seats in the stadiums, to the fake Middle Eastern tout for up to £6,000 each.

The IOC confirmed they were investigating the allegations and will consider a complete shake-up of how Olympic tickets are distributed among member countries.

An IOC statement read: "The International Olympic Committee has moved quickly to deal with allegations that some National Olympic Committees and Authorised Ticket Resellers (ATR) have broken rules relating to the sale of Olympic tickets.

"After claims that several NOCs and ATRs were reportedly willing to break the rules by offering to buy or sell tickets outside their territory, sell tickets at inflated prices, or sell tickets to unauthorised resellers, the IOC has ordered an immediate inquiry and referred the allegations to its independent ethics commission.

"On being informed of the allegations, the IOC immediately convened an extraordinary meeting of its executive board and determined a number of actions - the convening of the ethics commission and asking for any evidence of wrongdoing to be provided to the commission without delay.

"The IOC takes these allegations very seriously and has immediately taken the first steps to investigate. Should any irregularities be proven, the organisation will deal with those involved in an appropriate manner.

"The NOCs are autonomous organisations, but if any of the cases are confirmed the IOC will not hesitate to impose the strongest sanctions.

"The IOC has also determined that it will take on board any recommendations coming out of the inquiry to improve the way that tickets are allocated and sold internationally in the future."

Regarding the evidence against Mr Caprolos, Locog said in a statement: "Seb received a letter from the Greek Olympic Committee (HOC), as he did from other NOCs, and responded saying that tickets had been allocated in accordance with the IOC's ticketing policy. There was no further contact - either formal or informal - on this subject."

Locog added that rules and regulations for selling London 2012 tickets to international fans were "clear and unambiguous".

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it was awaiting the result of the IOC investigation before commenting.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for shadow Olympic minister Tessa Jowell also declined to comment, adding that "this is a matter for the IOC".

The latest allegations come after one of Ukraine's leading Olympic figures resigned when he was filmed offering London 2012 tickets for sale on the black market.

Volodymyr Gerashchenko, the 66-year-old general secretary of the Ukraine National Olympic Committee, quit last month but said he will co-operate with the independent investigation commission that was launched.

Later Sir Menzies called for officials caught selling tickets on the black market to have their allocations removed for London 2012 and future Games.

He said: "I think it's disgraceful when you consider the number of people who wanted tickets in this country and were unable to get them.

"It's insulting that members of the Olympic movement should be selling their allocations of tickets at inflated prices.

"We punish athletes who break rules, there is no reason why we shouldn't punish officials who do so, for example, by cancelling all the tickets allocated to them for these Games and possibly even in the future."

Sir Menzies denied the latest allegations would damage the reputation of the London 2012 Games.

He said it was the responsibility of the IOC to regulate ticket allocations to member countries and was "not at the discretion of the London organisers".