Blockchain has the potential to solve the problems of ticket scalping and cybersecurity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Photo: Tokyo Tower Special Lightup
Dr. Winnie Tang
Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong
The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are expected to be a place for showcasing many new technologies. Beyond showcasing tech for just showing off, one promising technology could actually provide a solution for two major problems facing Olympic organisers.
Problem 1: Ticket scalping
Ticket scalping (tickets resale for profit) is expected to be very serious at the Tokyo Olympic Games. In order to crack down on ticket scalping, the tickets are sold by lottery. However, this method has not been quite effective, even when paired with a penalty of one million yen (about HK$71,000) or imprisonment for one year were imposed to curb profiteering activities on ticket resale at the end of last year.
Japan Today reports that there are websites in the PRC selling Tokyo 2020 tickets at prices at least four to five times higher than the original price. For example, a ticket for a seat in the opening ceremony of section A is originally 300,000 yen (HK$21,000); now it sells for RMB 90,000 (HK$100,000), due to lack of supply to match demand for tickets for overseas visitors. There will be a total of 8.8 million tickets for the entire Olympic Games. 75% are reserved for the residents of the host country, Japan. The remaining 2.2 million tickets will be sold to visitors. The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympics expects that there will be over 500,000 Chinese tourists, prime targets of second-hand ticket sellers.
Problem 2: Cyberattacks
At the end of October, Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center detected significant cyberattacks targeting anti-doping authorities and sporting organisations around the world. MIT Technology Review details the actions of hacker organisations from Russia that have previously attacked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and French television stations through spear-phishing, password-spraying, and intrusion of internet-connected devices. Some successfully hacked national and anti-doping organisation sites connected to the 2018 Winter Olympic several times after the Russian team was suspended.
Blockchain has been suggested as a solution to these two challenges.
The consulting firm PwC quotes the former French senior official Jean Pierre Landau’s report to the Minister of the Economy and Finance, who suggested that the 2024 Paris Olympics should use blockchain to cope with ticket scalping. Processes such as the verification of tickets, controlling resale, or illegal exchange could all be digitised. Blockchain-based solutions also help to crack down on banned drugs, as well as authenticate athlete performance data and personal medical records.
Blockchain is a technology for storing records. The transaction records are shared and managed among all members, rather than relying on a centralised point of data storage. This supports transparency and makes it difficult to tamper with original data.
Privacy concerns can be addressed as transaction records are encrypted and released on a permission-only basis.
By using blockchain, the Olympics authority will have better control over the secondary market of ticket resale and exchange, preventing fraud or forgery. If you buy a ticket as a citizen of the host country and then resell it to a foreigner, it will be easy to detect. It will also help fight the circulation of counterfeit tickets. As a result, the second-hand buyer can ensure that the seller is the real ticket holder and the ticket is genuine.
As for anti-doping, athletes’ drug test reports and past performance records can be uploaded to the shared system of blockchain; this improved transparency can provide greater confidence in drug testing and reduce conflict as suspect results (possibly altered by hackers) are reduced or even eliminated.
In light of the growing public concerns over ticket scalping and cyberattacks, the use of advanced technology may shed some light on the way forward of organisations of these international games.
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Jasmine Lee is writer, commentator, and journalist. She graduated from McGill University where she took numerous opportunities to study and work around the world. Her specific areas of interest include media studies and human rights.