Lord Coe defends ‘demeaning’ auction of torches ahead of Olympic games

London: The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), Lord Sebastian Coe, has rubbished claims that auctioning surplus torches has lowered the importance of the Olympic Games.

LOCOG announced on Wednesday that it was to sell off around 1,000 surplus torches as well as Games memorabilia on its auction site.

There was extensive disparagement of flame-bearers who offered their torches for sale on eBay, and LOCOG’s decision to try to cash in by the same method has proved as controversial.

Michael Payne, the former commercial director of the International Olympic Committee, yesterday described the initiative as “demeaning.”

LOCOG initially said that only the flame-bearers would be able to buy torches, at 199 pounds for the privilege, but now it says anyone can buy one, with the proceeds used to subsidise the cost of providing torches to runners and to help pay for the Games.
Lord Coe disagreed with the notion that the auction was demeaning.

“I think we’ve done the best torch relay that I have ever witnessed and the interest is extraordinary. And yes, we’ve done some things that have upped the cost a bit in key areas, and this is not a bad way of helping us fund it,” Lord Coe said.

LOCOG has a tight budget of 2.2 billion pound raised through sponsorship and the sale of tickets, broadcast rights and merchandise. This is separate to the 9.3 billion pound public sector budget.

LOCOG hopes to raise net merchandise revenue of 100 million pound, but the sale of the torches has added a new dimension to commercialising the Olympics.