China starts probe on Olympic ticket sales

A SENIOR official of China's national Olympic committee responded yesterday to the London Games ticket scandal, saying an investigation into the alleged illegal sale had started.

Song Luzeng, secretary general of the Chinese Olympic Committee said the committee learned of the allegations by British media over the black market ticket sale for the London Olympic Games, especially the part involving an authorized ticket reseller, or ATR.

"The Olympic committee took an immediate action," said Song. "We demanded a thorough and sincere internal probe to be conducted by the authorized dealers for China."

"We will keep a close eye on the issue and report the updated information to the International Olympic Committee in time," he added.

Dozens of officials and ticket agents for the London Games, including the sole authorized one for China, Caissa Touristic, have been caught selling thousands of top tickets on the black market for up to 10 times their face value, last weekend's Sunday Times reported.

According to a two-month undercover investigation by the British newspaper, it found "widespread corruption among officials and agents controlling the tickets" for at least 54 countries.

The International Olympic Committee called an emergency meeting of its executive board and started investigation on Friday after learning the news.

Among the news reports, there were some paragraphs relating to China's official ticket agency, which had used a United Kingdom front company to buy dozens of "the best seats in the stadiums" to "top events meant for the British public."

They agreed to sell tickets to Sunday Times reporters, who posed as Middle Eastern ticket buyers, for up to 6,000 British pounds (US$9,400) each, according to the report.

The Chinese travel agency, Caissa Touristic, denied on Monday they were involved in selling London Games tickets on the black market.

"We have carried out every operation following the rules," said Caissa's vice president, Zhang Rui. "The story published by the Sunday Times is untrue, at least the part about us."

The International Olympic Committee pledged to take the "strongest sanctions" possible if members of national Olympic committees and authorized sellers were found to have broken the rules.

IOC rules prohibit national committees from selling tickets abroad, inflating ticket prices or selling tickets to unauthorized resellers.

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