VANCOUVER - A ticketing scam of Olympic proportions has left hundreds of would-be spectators without the seats they thought they'd bought, and sent ticket resellers scrambling with just over a week to go until the Games.
Companies like Vancouver-based Showtime Tickets began to grow concerned last month when some of the blocks of tickets they'd purchased failed to show up.
Then they were told by their supplier - Atlanta-based Action Seating - that the tickets didn't exist.
"This fiasco has touched anybody in the ticketing business in some capacity," said Mario Livich, chief executive officer of Showtime.
The owner of Action Seating, Gene Hammet, did not return a call for comment, but he sent a letter to clients last month outlining the issue.
"We learned that the tickets would not be forthcoming due to a failure by the ticket source to pay an alleged financing company in Hong Kong," reads the letter, according to a copy posted in an industry publication.
"According to the ticket source, the Hong Kong company refuses to release the tickets and instead has claimed a right to hold and sell them."
The letter went on to say that Action Seating couldn't confirm the identity of the Hong Kong company and believes "that Action Seating may be a victim of fraud."
Around $3 million is believed to have vanished in the transaction, and some ticketing companies are refusing to grant refunds to customers as they can't recoup the fees they paid to Action Seating.
The company's website has also been taken down.
Livich said those who've purchased through Showtime will get their seats, as his company works with other suppliers to get event tickets.
But for the family of U.S. snowboarder Elena Hight, that's cold comfort.
When the halfpipe tickets they bought through eSeats.com failed to arrive, Elena's grandmother Martha phoned the company to see what was going on.
The response came in the form of an e-mail: The tickets weren't coming because eSeats couldn't get them from Action Seating.
"It was the most traumatic afternoon," Martha Hight told The Canadian Press in an interview.
The Vancouver Olympic organizing committee, known as VANOC, has been warning potential ticket buyers for years that the only legitimate source of seats at the Games is either them or one of their official retailers, which include travel company Roadtrips Inc., and Olympic sponsors Jet Set Sports and CoSport.
Hight said the family had tried to go through CoSport but the tickets were sold out, and that's why they resorted to an online broker, paying $270 per ticket. And now that those have fallen through, she's gone back online and shelled out over $400 per ticket this time.
She's determined to see her granddaughter go for gold, despite the setback.
"We need to be there to cheer for her, we need to be there to support her," she said.
"Can you imagine her competing and not having anybody there? That would just be so sad."
Vancouver organizers did set up their own official resale site for Games tickets but it's limited to Canadians.
That the families of athletes are forced onto the black market is proof the ticketing system for Olympics is broken, said Jim Moriarty, who filed several lawsuits after similar ticketing problems during the Beijing Olympics.
He said he's already been contacted by one person who fell prey to the 2010 scam.
"These people try to buy tickets from legitimate suppliers, the legitimate suppliers have set them aside for the rich and the powerful and the so-called Olympics families," he said.
"And the people who want to go to the Olympics get screwed."