How Qaddafi's Son Lost 1,000 Olympics Tickets in 24 Hours

The perils of planning Olympics in wartime

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Here's a lesson in how quick reporting can have an impact: Yesterday afternoon, Muammar Qaddafi's son, Muhammad, had reportedly secured almost 1,000 tickets to the 2012 Olympics in London. This afternoon, Muhammad (pictured above) has none. How did it happen? Here's a brief blow-by-blow:


4:30 PM EST: Britain's The Telegraph, citing government sources, reports that Muhammad Qaddafi, as head of Libya's National Olympic Committee, has successfully requested around 1,000 tickets to the 2012 Games, which he can sell at a 20 percent markup or hand out to regime figures. The paper finds this alarming because a million Britons have unsuccessfully applied for tickets and because the U.K. could suffer a "diplomatic embarrassment" if regime figures or even Muammar Qaddafi himself--NATO bombing campaign, international travel ban, and International Criminal Court arrest warrant be damned--manage to "crash" the event (that's assuming, of course, that Qaddafi is still in power by 2012). How could this have happened? The paper explains that the London Olympic Organizing Committee must give tickets to any of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s 205 members-which include "pariah states" like Libya, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar--"regardless of diplomatic or political considerations."

9:00 PM EST: The outrage predicted by The Telegraph does indeed materialize. The Sun, for example, marvels in bold font that "Mad Dog Qaddafi's family" has been given tickets despite "slaughtering Libyan civilians." British politician Philip Davis blames the IOC for "putting Britain in the hugely invidious position of bombing Libya one day and having to give them a huge heap of Olympics tickets the next," according to The Telegraph.


5:20 AM EST: The Telegraph reports that government ministers were "alarmed" by the paper's earlier report and are seeking advice about how to prevent Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Libya's Muammar Qaddafi from attending the Games. Olympics officials reassure the ministers that while the the two men are technically eligible to attend the Games per Olympic rules, they won't be able to because of travel bans.

10:23 AM EST: A British government spokeswoman tells The Guardian that Libya's Olympic Committee, "not an individual, has been allocated a few hundred tickets which they are responsible for distributing to sports organizations and athletes within their country." She adds that "Qaddafi, his son and key figures in the current Libyan government are banned from entering the EU and will not be coming to the Olympic Games." The paper learns that the British government will decide whether leaders of other controversial countries--Bahrain, say, or Syria--will be admitted on a "case by case basis."

1:00 PM EST: IOC spokesman Mark Adams tells the Telegraph that "no tickets have been printed or paid for" and that his organization, along with London's Olympic Organizing Committee, has decided to not give Muhammad Qaddafi or his Olympic Committee tickets "until the current situation becomes clearer" and "we can be absolutely certain that the tickets can be used correctly." Despite all the reports to the contrary, Adams claims the decision was made several weeks ago and adds, "We remain committed to allowing athletes from whatever country to participate in the Games." The issue isn't necessarily resolved, however. A spokesman for the Libyan rebels, for example, tells The Telegraph that he finds it "astonishing that while the whole world is unified against the vile acts that Qaddafi and his family are carrying out, we see that the Olympic committee is still trying to deal with them."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.