Olympics / Black Market Tickets / U.K. Paper Stings Israeli During Investigation of Widespread Scalping Practices for London Games

Reporters from the Sunday Times Insight investigative reporting team uncovered attempts to sell tickets from the allocations of 54 nations.

LONDON - An Olympic ticket scalping scandal exposed by the Sunday Times has entangled the official agent for selling tickets in Israel. Yoav Bruck, a former Olympic swimmer and CEO of Issta Sport, was recorded trying to scalp tickets to the London Games by investigative reporters of the London daily.

Bruck denies the allegations, accusing the report of being riddled with untruths.

The reporters from the Sunday Times Insight investigative reporting team uncovered attempts to sell tickets from the allocations of 54 nations. The investigation was launched following widespread complaints in Britain and other countries regarding the difficulties in obtaining tickets that were supposed to be put on sale through the Internet on an equal basis.

Following the revelations, the International Olympic Committee (IOC ) has ordered an internal investigation.

In addition to the revelations regarding Israel, similar practices have been revealed in China, Greece (where the local president of the Olympic committee was himself selling tickets ), Serbia, Lithuania and throughout the Americas. According to the IOC rules, each country receives an allocation of tickets and the local sellers are forbidden to market them to other countries.

The Sunday Times investigators posed as representatives of a Middle Eastern concern and contacted Bruck, who represented Israel in swimming events at three Olympiads, through officials in the Serbian Olympic committee who agreed to sell them tickets that had been allocated to their company.

Two weeks ago, Bruck arrived in London to receive additional tickets that were to go on sale by Issta Sport - a subsidiary of travel agency Issta - in Israel and Cyprus and met the reporters at a local hotel. He was filmed and recorded by them. According to the newspaper, he said that "the Olympics is very tricky in England. The media is ... everybody's like paralyzed. They're afraid to talk to people just because you get a 20,000-pound penalty for selling on the black market."

He agreed to sell them tickets through a fund in Lichtenstein, since as an authorized seller in European Union member Cyprus, he could transfer them to another European country. He offered them 525 tickets in the top categories, the paper reported, including 26 tickets in the best places for the 100-meter final and also tickets to the final stages of boxing, basketball and women's volleyball events.

According to the newspaper, to push up the prices, he proposed to sell them along with cheap hotel rooms, tripling the price of the ticket's face value. He said, "I'm being very cautious. I'm doing a multi-million dollar project and I'm not going to risk my business ... and obviously it has to be a European body who is buying because we're allowed to sell in Europe."

Triple the price

According to the Sunday Times, Bruck agreed to sell the tickets for 66,000 pounds (approximately NIS 400,000 ) and when the reporters told him they were meant for an Arab customer, he said "Yeah. Whatever you do on your side is fine with me."

Bruck asserts he did nothing wrong. "The report is swamped with untruths, lies and inventions that cry to the heavens," he told Israel's Channel 2 television station on Sunday. "I am saying that we are clean ... we are not selling anything we are not allowed to."

In addition to Bruck and Issta, representatives of official ticket agencies in China, Serbia, Lithuania and the international ticket retailer Cartan Tours which works throughout the Americas offered the Sunday Times reporters tickets, as did officials in the national Olympic committees including Spyros Capralos, the president of Greece's Olympic committee. They also met with representatives of countries that were interested in buying tickets, in addition to their national allocations, such as the secretary general of the Saudi Olympic committee.

The IOC announced following the Sunday Times report that it "has ordered an immediate inquiry and referred the allegations to its independent ethics commission."

Issta said in response that "it is a hurried and unreliable journalistic investigation on Issta Sport and its license to sell Olympic tickets in Cyprus. The company confirms to the conditions and rules of the organizing committee, has resolutely enforced them and will continue to do so in the future. The company never offered a service that does not comply with the conditions and rules of the IOC, and all its commercial actions are fully backed by the Olympics' organizing committee."

The Olympic Committee of Israel said that "Issta Sport signed an agreement with the Olympic Games organizing committee in London which details all the conditions, requirement and limitations. We have no doubt that before signing this agreement, Issta studied the conditions of the agreement and assume that it acted accordingly. The IOC has announced that it will examine the allegations. The Olympic Committee of Israel will act in accordance with instructions it will received from the IOC."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report. )

Bruck in 2011. He says he did not sell anything he wasn’t allowed to.
Ilya Melnikov