2010 Flashback: Scalpers flaunt law, flog Games tickets

High Olympic ticket prices hurt black market

With the 10th anniversary of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, we are looking back at some of the stories that were making the news in the Courier during those 17 days in February.

This story was originally published Feb. 19, 2010

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Your first name, sir? “Danny.” Surname? “Just Danny from London is fine.”

In Danny from London’s world, the less forthcoming, the better. Danny — the 50-something guy in the aviator shades — is a ticket scalper. On Tuesday, he was working the crowd outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Robson Street.

Although a city vending bylaw says Danny must have a permit to sell tickets, it didn’t bother him or the dozen scalpers on the street. With a fistful of Olympic tickets in his hand, and an “ice hockey Canada v USA wanted” sign hanging from his neck, Danny was having a tough go. He blamed the sluggish sales on the hefty face value prices set by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games.

The face value of the Canadian men’s hockey tickets in his hand were $140 each. He was trying to hawk them for $350 each, with four hours remaining before the game against Norway.

“They’re not cheap tickets here,” he said, noting the $900 price tag for a ticket to the opening ceremony. “In Beijing [at the summer Olympics], the tickets were selling for nothing. Organizers looked at their local people and they saw they haven’t got that sort of money and so they set the prices accordingly.”

Danny said he gets his tickets by buying and trading with fellow scalpers. Many of the scalpers outside the art gallery Tuesday were from his native England. When asked whether buyers can trust the tickets they buy are legitimate, Danny said he is not in business to take advantage of sports fans.

“What’s the point? I haven’t come from the other side of the world to rip people off. If I’ve got two tickets for a game, there’s no way I’ve got a printing press around the corner. I sell proper tickets so people can get a lot of pleasure to see what they want to see. That’s why I do it.”

Across the street, scalper Steve from Florida he also declined to give his surname — agreed with Danny that tickets were overpriced. But Steve, who was less forthcoming than Danny, said he planned to stay for the duration of the Games.

“If it wasn’t going so well, I wouldn’t be here — I would have left a long time ago,” said Steve, before continuing down the street.

The presence of foreign scalpers in the city isn’t good news for VANOC, which has its own regulated ticket re-selling site. VANOC is in contact with the city’s permits and licences department, which is working with the Vancouver Police Department to crack down on scalpers.

Will Johnston, the city’s director of licences and inspections, said bylaw officers and police have issued “some” bylaw tickets. Vending without a licence on the street comes with a $250 fine.

To get a licence, the scalpers would need approval from VANOC, which they haven’t received, Johnston said.

“It is an issue for the city but also remember there’s a variety of issues that we’re looking for compliance on in the Games,” said Johnston, referring to illegal signs, street performers and graffiti.

Hockey fans hunting for scalper’s tickets to the gold medal final of men’s hockey should be willing to pay good money.

“Right now, I suppose two thousand, maybe two thousand-and-a half,” said Danny, who has yet to find some. “But if Canada gets knocked out before then, which I can’t see happening, the price will go down.”

mhowell@vancourier.com

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