By Tom Degun in London

London 2012 have today announced that over 150,000 tickets will go on sale for the test event programme, which is being branded as the "London Prepares" series, with prices set to vary from event to event but range between £5 to £35.

Tickets will be available on Ticketmaster from May 26 by using a Visa card.

Overall, around 10,000 volunteers and 8,000 athletes from more than 50 countries will be part of a 12 month rehearsal for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in a programme of test events that run from May 2011 to May 2012.

London 2012 chief executive Paul Deighton said: "The London Prepares series is essentially about putting our plans into practice.

"Although our venues won't be dressed in their Games finery, a number of events will give the public a chance to see some world class sporting action ahead of next year.

"These events are our opportunity to try out our new venues, test new technology and equipment and walk our extended teams through their roles and responsibilities.

"We have learned a lot from previous Games which we will put to good use as we challenge ourselves over the next 12 months."

There are three different groupings of events.

Events which London 2012 is organising and ticketing, events run by London 2012 that are not ticketed and events which are not organised by London 2012, such as Wimbledon.

There will be four London 2012 events this summer that will be ticketed.

They will be the mountain bike event at Hadleigh Farm in Essex on July 31, beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade on August 9-14, basketball at the Basketball Arena on August 16-21 and BMX Track at the Olympic Park on August 19-20.

This means that basketball and BMX will be the first competitive sports ever to take place on the Olympic Park.

Other events that London 2012 are ticketing are gymnastics at the North Greenwich Arena next January, track cycling at the Velodrome and diving at the Aquatics Centre in February and synchronised swimming at the Aquatics Centre in April.

In addition, there will be another five London 2012 ticketed events that take place in May 2012 which will be hockey at the Hockey Centre, wheelchair tennis at Eton Manor, water polo at the Aquatics Centre and athletics and Paralympic athletics at the Olympic Stadium.

There are also a number free-to-view events such as the cycling road race event on August 14 which goes through London and Surrey.

The programme will primarily focus on testing the sporting field of play, including results, timing and scoring systems; how teams work together and how people move around venues.

The types of things that will be tested during the programme include a new platform for the equestrian events at Greenwich Park and the delivery of 3,000 tonnes of sand for beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade.

The beach volleyball event will also see ticket and media accreditation scanning in action and the same security checks that will be conducted during the Games.

The first official test event will be a 10 kilometres road race that will take place on the loop planned for the Olympic marathon on May 30 and which will be folowed by the UK Athletics 20km Race Walking Championships.

Deighton said: "This will not be like a mini-Olympics as these events will not take place over 19 days and they are more about planning.

"They are a key part of readiness mission and if the ticket sales for the Olympics were anything to go by, we expect them to be very popular.

"The venues will not look and feel like they will at Games-time as we still have a few surprises in store for then but there will be world class athletes in action so it will be a very special experience for fans."

Of the 42 events taking place across in 26 different venues, 17 are international federation events that are already on international calendars and 25 will be invitation.

London 2012 will not organise six of these while another six will be standalone Paralympic events.


By Duncan Mackay

London 2012 has contacted all 1.8 million people who have applied for tickets for next year's Olympics to remind them that they need to make sure that they have enough money available in their accounts to cover the cost of what they ordered or risk losing them.

An estimated 20 million London 2012 Olympics tickets had been applied for by the time the process officially closed last week, and the signs are that many people have booked more tickets than they can afford.

With the average ticket application exceeding 10 per person and an average ticket price of between £50 ($83) and £200 ($330), applicants are set to receive bills of hundreds or even thousands of pounds in the next few weeks.

People had to select tickets through the online bidding system and pay for them on a Visa card but were not told at the time whether their applications were successful, so many have potentially committed thousands of pounds to make sure they get tickets to something.

But if they do not have enough money to cover the cost then they face the propsect of losing them.

"This is a reminder email from the London 2012 Ticketing team," said the e-mail.

"Please ensure you have sufficient funds available on your Visa card to cover the total cost of your application between 10 May and 10 June 2011.

"Please be aware that your application may be withdrawn if you do not have sufficient funds available.

"The latest date by which you will be told whether you have been allocated tickets is 24 June 2011."

Those who have acquired tickets to events they might not be able to attend, or have bought more than they can afford, will be able to sell back tickets through an official re-selling platform but that will not be available until early next year.


LaShawn Meritt.Photo: zimbio.comThe Court of Arbitration for Sport is to sit in judgment on the IOC's Rule 45 as one high-profile athlete branded a drug cheat leads race to gain entry into the London 2012 Games.

One man's lily-livered leniency is another man's common sense, not least when it comes to the debate over penalties imposed on athletes found to have broken anti-doping rules.

The absolutists argue no punishment is sufficient for "cheats" except a lifetime ban, while the "libertarians" (for the want of a better word) would rather there were no punishment or indeed no rules, not least because the policing of steroid abuse has proved so difficult through the years. Let them all "cheat", goes this mantra – at least we would have a level playing field.

And then there is the real sporting world, where difficult and complex concepts like natural justice, proportionality and fairness must be applied. It is into this world that the case of the American Olympian LaShawn Merritt arrived this week.

Merritt, the reigning world and Olympic 400m champion, was banned from the sport for two years – backdated to October 2009 – after he was found to have tested positive three times for a steroid found in a "male enhancement" supplement called ExtenZe. His punishment was subsequently reduced to 21 months by the American Arbitration Association, which ruled he had not taken the steroid with the aim of gaining a competitive advantage and therefore deserved a degree of leniency.

In making its ruling the AAA went further, challenging the International Olympic Committee's Rule 45, which states that any athlete who receives a drugs sanction greater than six months is automatically banned from competing at the next Olympics. In Merritt's case, this would mean he would not be able to take part in London 2012. According to AAA, this IOC sanction is out of kilter with the concepts of justice laid out in the World Anti-Doping Agency's rules on sanctions for drug offenders, being both disproportionately harsh and, in effect, double jeopardy because it punishes an athlete twice for the same "crime".

(The IOC has previously argued the ban imposed under Rule 45 is not a "penalty" but an "eligibility rule" – a piece of legal sophistry dismissed in the AAA's fascinating 50-page ruling as "mere skulduggery".)
The US Olympic Committee would obviously like to take the strongest team possible to the 2012 Games, but it is also keen to avoid expensive legal costs that might be incurred if an athlete, such as Merritt, sought to challenge any Olympic ban arising from Rule 45. In other words, with London looming so did the prospect of a rash of high-profile and potentially damaging legal actions as drugs "cheats" like Merritt sought to gain entry to the Olympics through the courts.

Against this backdrop it was no surprise last week when the IOC and the USOC announced they have asked the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration of Sport to sit in judgment on Rule 45.

Both organisations are looking for clarity, albeit a different kind of clarity, with the IOC seeking to uphold its current policy while the USOC, though not publicly stating a preference, would rather see it set aside.

Hardliners view the USOC's approach as typically self-serving (this is the organisation, after all, which stood accused of covering up the fact that more than 100 US athletes failed drug tests from 1988-2000 and so allowed them to continue competing), and note the contrast with British Olympic Association, which goes beyond Rule 45 and imposes a lifetime ban from the Olympics on athletes who have failed a drugs test.
Famously, Dwain Chambers's challenge to the BOA's rule in the run-up to the Beijing games in 2008 was thrown out by the high court, albeit that the judge suggested at the time that a stronger case than the one put forward by the sprinter's legal team might have had a chance of success.

Responding to the news that Merritt's case was to go before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the BOA reiterated its backing for a lifetime Olympics ban , although was it possible to detect a softening of approach in these words from its spokesman? "We agree it is important to find the right balance in a rigorous anti-doping system that protects the health and well-being of the overwhelming majority of athletes who choose to compete clean while also introducing meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules," he said.
No one, not LaShawn Merritt and not even Dwain Chambers, could find fault with this statement of the obvious.
The difficulty comes, and the controversy will follow, when the Court of Arbitration for Sport decides where this balance falls.


Jessica HardyAmerican swimmer Jessica Hardy, who missed the Beijing Olympics in 2008 because of a doping violation, has been cleared for next year's Games in London after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) told her she would not be subject to the controversial rule that threatened her eligibility.

Hardy, the 2007 world 50 metres breaststroke champion, was banned from the Beijing Games only a few weeks before they started after she tested positive for clenbuterol.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) later ruled that the Long Beach swimmer was not at fault for taking a contaminated dietary supplement.

But she still received a one-year suspension, which subjected her to the IOC's six month rule that bars any athlete who has been banned for more than half-a-year from competing in the next Olympics.

The IOC has now notified, however, her that she was not subject to the rule because it went into effect so close in time to the positive test.

The IOC also looked favourably on the fact that Hardy voluntarily withdrew from Beijing while her case was still pending, in hopes of not also having to miss London.

"I am ecstatic that the IOC has recognised my unique situation, and that this rule does not apply to me," 24-year-old Hardy said in a statement released through her lawyer, Howard Jacobs.

"With this final hurdle now behind me, I can now focus 100 per cent of my efforts on preparing for and representing my country at next year's Olympic Games, a lifelong dream that was taken away from me in 2008."

News of her reinstatement came in the same week the IOC and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) agreed to let CAS rule on the validity of the six month rule, which is viewed by many critics as a rule that penalises athletes twice for a single doping violation.

American sprinter LaShawn Merritt's Olympic fate will be tied to that decision.

Merritt, the defending Olympic and world champion in the 400m, is serving a 21-month suspension that ends in July.

He would be eligible for the Olympics under that timeline but must wait to see if the CAS upholds the IOC rule.

The IOC and USOC agreed it would be better to figure out this rule well before the Olympics to avoid confusion in the lead-up to trials and the Olympics next year.

USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said they welcomed the news about Hardy but did not expect it to have any effect on the case impacting Merritt.

"We see these as totally separate issues that are unrelated and have no bearing on each other," he said.


By Jacquelin Magnay

The opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games is 10 times oversubscribed and more than 20 million Olympic tickets have been applied for across all sports in the first stage of the Olympic ticket process.

More than half of the 650 Olympic sessions are oversubscribed, with officials set to conduct a ballot for tickets.

The sold-out sign includes all sessions of track cycling, rhythmic gymnastics, triathlon, modern pentathlon, equestrian and the opening and closing ceremonies. Most of the swimming sessions and tennis will also be ballotted.

The public application process, which closed yesterday after an hour's extension because of overwhelming last-minute demand, should see organisers hit their target of raising £400 million from this stage, with up to another £100 million of tickets to be sold in further ballots.

There were 6.6 million tickets for sale in this public ticket process.

Locog chairman Sebastian Coe said: "We are thrilled with the response right across the board, in all sports and all sessions.

"Certain events have seen massive demand - for example the Opening Ceremony, which is more than 10 times oversubscribed, so there will understandably be disappointment and we will find a way to go back to those people with other tickets.

"What is most encouraging is that the majority of applications are for multiple tickets and for several sports, which shows that friends and family are planning to go to the Games together."

Nearly 1.8 million people have applied for tickets, with 95 per cent of orders coming from within the United Kingdom, pleasing organisers who want to see British fans in the stands.

Locog will now check and de-duplicate applications before running ballots across sessions which are oversubscribed and process applications.

Money will be taken from accounts from May 10, 2011 and customers will receive confirmation of which events they will receive tickets for in June 2011.