Scalping not the ticket in Sochi

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Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2014 6:29 pm | Updated: 11:43 am, Mon Feb 17, 2014.

SOCHI, Russia — First they went after gays, now the Russians are cracking down on ticket scalpers.

What next?

Making vodka an illegal substance?

This country might be embracing some aspects of capitalism — we’ve already written about the popularity of McDonald’s — but the time-worn practice of selling hot tickets on the street corner isn’t one of them.

Not even a Stub-ski, Hub-ski.

What’s up with that?

Vancouver was crawling with scalpers but thanks to a new, special “anti-scalping’’ law just instituted in Russia, there’s no more, “Pssst! Hey, buddy! Need some tickets?’’

The fine?

Oh, this isn’t some parking ticket, my friends.

How about up to 1 million rubles. That’s $28,000 if you convert that to good old American greenbacks.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree establishing a framework of financial penalties for those found guilty of profiteering from tickets.

Secondary sales apparently are out, too. Even if you try to sell a ticket for less than its marked value, you could end up in hot water.

It’s the first time there’s ever been an anti-scalping law in Russia and, by some crazy coincidence, it has gone into effect just in time for the Olympics.

However, to prevent illegal trade, officials have established a “fan-to-fan’’ website, based on the London 2012 model, for the legal exchange of tickets.

“We are happy with the current results of Fan2Fan,’’ says Dmitry Perlin, head of Sochi 2014 ticketing. “It works well.’’

As for refunds, nyet. You buy ‘em, you probably can’t get your money back unless you plead your case.

And I mean really plead your case.

“If a session is canceled or been seriously moved or a person has a serious reason why he or she cannot attend the venue, we are able to proceed with a refund,’’ Perlin says.

“It is always a subject for the organizing committee to make the decision.’’

Good luck with that.

Perlin says about 925,000 tickets were sold for the Olympics but some of the buildings look less than full.

So the Sochi committee is giving away tickets to volunteers as a reward — a way of “papering the house’’ as it were.

Tickets at the Olympics range from $10 to $1,000.

If the average Joe tries to hawk a ducat, he gets fined about 10 times the value. But if an Olympic official gets caught dumping one, it’s 20 times the amount.

“We are proud of our security efforts in the fight against scalpers,’’ Perlin says. “In comparison with previous Games, we are having really good results.’’

And darn it, I was all set to unload a handful of front-row curling seats, too, until I heard about the new edict. I think I’ll hang onto them now. No point in getting the hosts all riled up.

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