* Broker, wife give $200,000 to PAC that backs Romney
* London Olympics fans wait hours in heat for tickets
* No indication Romney involved with ticket delays
By Mark Hosenball
LONDON, July 24 A longtime Olympics ticket
broker is apologizing for delays in distributing tickets to the
London Summer Games that have forced some fans to spend up to
six hours in sweltering heat this week waiting for their orders.
The ticket agency CoSport - whose owner was a figure in the
2002 Salt Lake City Olympics scandal and is a prominent backer
of U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney - said in a statement
Tuesday that it understood the frustration of customers, many of
whom have arrived in London from the United States and Canada.
CoSport also said it was "very sorry" that some customers
had not been given the bloc seating arrangements they requested.
The episode has drawn attention to the cozy relationship
CoSport and its affiliates enjoy with the Olympics, for which
the companies have provided travel packages since 1984.
And in a twist of circumstance, the ticket problems also are
a reminder of the agency owner's role in a scandal surrounding
the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City just as the leader of
those Games, Romney, is scheduled to visit here for the opening
of the London Games.
CoSport - described on its website as having the "exclusive
right to market and sell Olympic" hospitality and ticket
packages in the United States, Canada and a few European nations
- is owned by Sead Dizdarevic, who with his wife, Margaret, is a
major supporter of Romney.
Reports filed with the U.S. Federal Election Commission
indicate the Dizdarevics and their company have contributed
$200,000 to Restore Our Future, a political action committee, or
PAC, that supports Romney's bid to oust President Barack Obama
in the election on Nov. 6.
There is no indication Romney had anything to do with
CoSport's work on the London Olympics or any problems the ticket
agency has had.
A CONTROVERSIAL PAST
Sead Dizdarevic has a long and controversial history as an
Olympics tickets distributor.
A native of Yugoslavia who began arranging Olympic travel
packages for the 1984 Winter Games in Sarajevo, Dizdarevic's
companies have arranged VIP travel and ticket packages for every
In Salt Lake City, Dizdarevic was embroiled in a scandal
that shook the Olympic movement and led to Romney, then a
private-equity executive at Bain Capital in Boston, being
enlisted to steer the 2002 Games out of trouble.
The scandal focused on allegations that Salt Lake officials
bidding to lure the Olympics there had spent millions of dollars
on gifts, cash payments and other benefits for IOC members
involved in deciding whether to award the Games to Salt Lake
It also involved payments that prospective vendors made to
Salt Lake Olympics officials. An indictment accused two
officials of receiving $130,000 from Jet Set Sports, of which
CoSport is a part.
The charges eventually were tossed out by a federal judge,
but not before Dizdarevic testified against the suspects after
receiving immunity from prosecution.
Despite the cash payments controversy, Romney recruited Jet
Set as a sponsor after he took over as chief of the Salt Lake
Games, according to Mark Lewis, who worked on the Games as a
close aide to Romney.
In the years that followed, Dizdarevic and his companies
maintained and expanded their involvement with the Olympics.
Lewis and Fraser Bullock, another of Romney's top deputies
in Salt Lake, became involved with Dizdarevic and Jet Set
Sports. Lewis, a fundraiser Romney hired away from the
International Olympic Committee to raise funds for the Salt Lake
Games, joined Jet Set as its president in 2005. Last December,
Romney's campaign announced that Lewis was one of its state
finance co-chairmen in Montana.
Lewis left Jet Set last April to join the National
Collegiate Athletic Association. At the time he also resigned
from his unpaid position with Romney's campaign.
FRUSTRATION IN LONDON
Romney's trip to Europe this week will include stops in
London, Israel and Poland, as the former Massachusetts governor
seeks to establish himself on an international stage.
Neither Romney's campaign nor Jet Set Sports would comment
on whether the broker had a role in arranging Romney's trip.
A person who answered the phone at Jet Set Sports' New
Jersey office said Dizdarevic was in London. He did not respond
to messages left by e-mail, telephone and personal visit.
At the community college campus near London's Paddington
train station that is the London ticket pickup center for
CoSports customers, some fans in line on Tuesday said they had
tried to collect their tickets on Monday but found waiting times
on an unusually sunny London day running up to six hours.
On Tuesday, customers said, the lines seemed to be moving
somewhat faster. The ticket agency handed out bottles of water
and erected canopies to shade customers from the sun.
But Dave Sirrell, a customer from Canada waiting for his
tickets, said he found the situation "...pathetic. ... They
should have had this (office) open last week."
(Editing by David Lindsey and Philip Barbara)