Tokyo Olympics: Australian ticket holders to lose money on Games' fan ban

Thousands of Australian Tokyo Olympics ticket holders are likely to receive only partial refunds for the event and may also find it hard to recover hotel costs after international spectators were barred from attending the Games due to the pandemic.

Up to a million Games fans outside of Japan, including several thousand Australians who have already been prevented from travelling overseas by strict border regulations, are likely to be affected.

The US-based CoSport, which is the official international ticket agent for the Tokyo 2020 Games, has been contacting Australian ticket-holders to inform them that 20 per cent of their refunds will be withheld due to the firm's "handling fees".

Tokyo Games organisers, who did not respond to requests for comment, are only prepared to refund the face value of tickets and not the handling fee, leaving would-be spectators out of pocket. Olympics tickets range in price depending on the event, but major spectacles like the opening ceremony cost more than $2500. 

Furthermore, some Australian ticket holders may not receive any refund for months as the organisers of the Tokyo Games have to first release tens of millions of dollars in funds to CoSport for them to be then distributed to customers.

A spokesman for the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) estimates "several thousand" Australians bought tickets to the Tokyo Olympics, even though doubts still linger over whether the rescheduled Games will proceed as planned from July 23.

"It's been a difficult environment for all concerned during the pandemic," he said. "We would have loved to have had family, friends and supporters cheer our team on but it's not to be."

The spokesman said the AOC understands CoSport's partial ticket refund decision "in the circumstances".

 "There were two refund windows," he said. "One in August last year and those refunds have been made. The second window was just recently after all international visitors were cancelled. Those refunds won't flow until end of the year."

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The decision to ban foreign spectators, made last month, will result in a huge loss of revenue for Tokyo 2020 organisers, with a class action by US ticket holders already being canvassed.

Stephen Saunders, a Canberra-based Games devotee who has attended six Olympics, spent $2000 on Tokyo 2020 tickets. While he is philosophical about the financial loss he considers "an 80 per cent refund that takes all year" to be issued, isn't a good look for the Olympic movement.

"The International Olympic Committee and the AOC could be pushing for us to get the 80 per cent [refund] sooner," he said. "We diehard followers are part of their purported [Olympic] family, too and we bring passion and colour to their events, especially to the niche sports.

"It cannot be too surprising that has AOC has fallen in with the American-based CoSport refund offer. I receive AOC promo messages as a registered fan but when did it ever contact me about the ticketing issue?"

In a further potential financial hit for ticket holders, CoSport has told its customers via its website that if they have bought ticket and hotel packages, it "will have to work with the Japanese hotels to refund the monies already provided to them to secure your rooms".

Mr Saunders said: "There's no question that Australian fans who booked deluxe accommodation and ticket packages are much more [financially] exposed than me."

In a widely-distributed email to ticket holders, CoSport was somewhat critical of the Tokyo Olympics organisers' stance on the issue and indicated it couldn't confirm the timing of the release of the funds.

Alan Dizdarevic, the chief executive of the New Jersey-based company, told The Los Angeles Times last month that Japan should refund ticket costs in full, including handling fees, because they made the original decision to ban foreign spectators.

On its website CoSport states: "Tokyo 2020 has not provided much information as to when they will return these funds, however, we have been advised that they will return your funds after the Paralympic Games [which close on September 5)." The representative added that CoSport will "need time to process" ticket holders' refunds.

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