Hurry Up and Wait for Olympic Ticket Refunds

Authorized Ticket Resellers try to sort out complicated reimbursement process for Tokyo Olympics.

(ATR) Sixty-eight thousand U.S. Olympic ticket buyers are affected by Tokyo 2020’s decision to disallow overseas spectators to attend this summer’s Games.

Those who have purchased ticket packages through U.S. Authorized Ticket Reseller CoSport will have to wait patiently as refunds still need to be approved by Tokyo 2020 organizers and the IOC before processing.

Alan Dizdarevic, Co-CEO of the New Jersey based CoSport, tells Around the Rings that the long-awaited decision was not unexpected, but nevertheless painful.

"Ultimately, this is a huge disappointment for spectators all around the world," Dizdarevic says. "We had to prepare and anticipate more than anything else because first and foremost we wanted to make sure our customers are well informed and to ensure that we’re able to do right by them.

"What the refund amount is and the timing around the refund is still unknown from an organizing committee standpoint. We’re still awaiting clarity on the refund policy and how it will work.

"The last time around with the postponement, we had to wait almost nine months for the refund to come to us before we can refund customers."

While CoSport will reimburse its customers for the face value of the seats, it will not return the 20 percent service fee that had been added on to every ticket.

The move to prohibit foreign spectators due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns was confirmed in a high level virtual meeting between leaders of the IOC, international Paralympic Committee, Tokyo 2020 and municipal and national governments on March 20.

As with the postponement of the Olympics and Paralympics, the restrictions on overseas spectators entering Japan and the refunding of tickets on a mass scale is unprecedented.

"We are dealing with basically the largest refund policy in sports that we’ve ever seen from a ticketing standpoint," Dizdarevic said. "We’re talking about 206 NOCs, International Federations, national sport federations, the sponsors.

"This is going to be a massive undertaking," he added, while noting that the 68,000 figure in the U.S., is the largest worldwide. Dizdarevic notes that CoSport is the official ATR for eight NOCs in total.

Tokyo 2020 organizers have revealed that some 600,000 Olympic and Paralympic tickets have been sold around the world.

Adding to the massive headache, hotel refunds also have to be managed and processed.

"We’re still waiting on the (Japanese) government’s policy on that as well – what they will tell the hotels to do," Dizdarevic says. "I think some hotels are very good partners and they’ll want to refund their customer for future business potential and other partners may want to take a harder stand."

Dizdarevic notes that while customer service is a top priority, the entire refunding process will not happen in a timely fashion.

"We think it will take a long time because it's highly complex, it’s a lot of tickets that need to be refunded on a global scale," he said.

Word on whether domestic ticketholders will be admitted to the Games, perhaps on a reduced seating plan, is expected in April.

Adding to the financial burden for the ATRs, ticket sales for the Beijing 2022 Games are roughly nine months behind schedule, according to Dizdarevic. Tickets still have not gone on sale.

"The Beijing organizing committee has taken a very conservative approach to mitigate any of these challenges that they can," he says. "We anticipate that the process for us as an ATR will begin in the coming couple of months, hopefully."

Dizdarevic says that he sees better opportunities and perhaps a return to normalcy for the ticketing industry come Paris 2024.

"For Beijing it’s going to be very limited, but we’re hopeful for Paris," he said.

Dizdarevic informs that there has been frequent communication with the IOC regarding managing the ticketing and hospitality refund problems and easing the process.

"They are understanding of what we are going through, but I don’t think they realize the complexity of what we and other ATRs do," Dizdarevic said. "But they are listening and trying to help.

"The challenging part right now is that because this is a decision by the Japanese organizers and not the IOC, they are a little bit limited in their abilities of what they can deliver."

Written by Brian Pinelli with reporting from Ed Hula

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