Fans Let Down By London 2012 Auction
Jan 7, 2013 - Craig Lord
When Lord Coe invited everyone to "own a piece of Olympic history" by buying London 2012 leftovers and memorabilia, ranging from the farm workers' outfits worn in the Opening Ceremony to the batons carried in track relay finals and signed kit worn by Bradley Wiggins and other medal winners, his intent was genuine: spread feel-good and turn a further profit (for someone, somewhere).
The whole thing has turned sour, with fans now threatening to sue the company behind the auction of London 2012 memorabilia, the goods having failed to arrive - including the result sheets for every one of Michael Phelps' events.
Innovative Sports Ltd, the Canadian company running the memorabilia.london2012.com auction site, has now admitted that it does not possess some of the "exclusive" items that have been sold to customers.
Damian Kelly, a solicitor from Leeds, tells The Independent today: "I bought all the result sheets for Michael Phelps' historic swimming events in August. They still haven't arrived. I have spent £7,000 on outstanding items. To say I am annoyed is an understatement."
That anyone should have been given the rights to sell the results of Phelps' events after the result sheets were (and remain) a matter of public record is an issue that the IOC and others in their respective sporting spheres must now surely look at - as is the matter of promising access to big IOC names in return for promises that cannot be fulfilled.
Kelly, said he had contacted Innovative Sports in Vancouver. "I was told they could get Seb Coe to sign an Olympics book instead. With all due respect to Seb, it's no substitute."
No way of doing business either. When commercial promises cannot be met in the world of the five rings, no-one ought to be pledging bigwig signatures as way of compensation for any failure to deliver goods bought by customers in good faith.
The solicitor claims he was told that Innovative Sports did not yet have the Phelps results sheets it had sold. How could that be? Was the promise made before the rights were granted?
One call to Omega would result in the required result sheets being delivered - if the IOC genuinely wanted to make those items available to a Canadian memorabilia outfit and asked its official timekeeper to pop a few items in the post. FINA, too, will have copies, as will most media organisations accredited to the Games.
Ironically, Omega is not even allowed to place the swimming results on its live timing service even though the information appears in myriad other places in the digital world.
"Advertising items for sale you do not possess could be a case of fraud," Kelly tells the paper. He has approached other customers who are also missing items. "I am speaking to a barrister soon about launching legal proceedings," he tells The Independent, whose correspondents from the pool at London 2012 would surely be able to help him with those results sheets (but not in return for money).
Among other customers complaining that auction goods they have paid for never arrived included a man who paid £4,300 for an Olympic Torch and another who was told that cycling champion Wiggins had had a crash of late - and that's why the goods had been held up in transit.
The Independent reports that customers are now complaining that emails to Innovative Sports, which advertises itself as "one of the premier sports marketing companies in the world", are no longer being answered.
The company did reply to questions put by the British newspaper, however. Jon Curleigh, a director at Innovative Sports, said: "We were overwhelmed by the success of the Games and caught off guard by the demand. Unfortunately some of the products didn't materialise in the way they should have. The issue is people wanting products that we just don't have. We are offering everyone affected a 100 per cent full refund. Some people don't want the refund, they want their products. I don't know what to do about that."
Curleigh denied any suggestion of fraud, saying "there was no absolutely no intention to deceive". A message on the official auction website states that Innovative Sports will start dispatching items on January 21, after a warehouse relocation. It thanks customers for their "patience and understanding".
Locog, the organising committee for London 2012 headed by Lord Coe, is to contact the company to discuss the issues raised by The Independent.