Alibaba has become the ticketing systems and services provider for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics after signing a landmark deal with Games chiefs.

Alibaba – the Chinese conglomerate which is a Worldwide Olympic Partner – will use its Damai ticketing subsidiary to provide a fully digitally enabled ticketing programme through its agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Beiing 2022 organising committee. Local organising committees have previously run ticketing programmes themselves, although this has often courted controversy.

Olympic officials said the Alibaba deal was struck with the objective of securing a single provider to deliver ticketing services and operations over several Games editions, reducing costs and the complexity of hosting the Games in line with Olympic Agenda 2020’s recommendations on efficient turnkey solutions.

“The ticketing solutions provided will drive further innovation at the Olympic Games, enhance the spectator experience and reduce costs for organisers, delivering on the commitments made by Olympic Agenda 2020,” said Timo Lumme, managing director of IOC Television and Marketing Services.

The IOC said a long-term ticketing partner will be beneficial because of continuity of service through the provision of established systems and delivery experience, alleviating the need to design, engineer and deliver a solution for each individual Games edition.

The IOC did not confirm whether the Alibaba deal will be extended to other Olympic Games, such as Paris 2024.

Chris Tung, Alibaba’s chief marketing officer, said: “We are proud to extend our partnership with the Olympic Games, beyond e-commerce and cloud, by supporting the Beijing 2022 ticketing programme.

“We look forward to leveraging our technology to help provide streamlined, digitally-enabled ticket sales services to create a seamless ticketing experience for fans around the world.”

The Olympic Games previously operated under a system whereby the local organising committee bears responsibility for the sale and distribution of tickets, including appointing authorised resellers for specific countries and territories.

In December 2015, the IOC opened up the possibility of a change in ticketing strategy for the Tokyo 2020 Games by launching an Invitation for Expression of Interest (IEI) process to secure a central supplier. Scandals surrounding ticketing dogged both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games.

Under the Agenda 2020 reform initiative, which provides for the potential of adopting turnkey solutions for certain operations, the IOC requested contact from companies interested in further information regarding the provision of ticketing systems and services to support Tokyo 2020, along with the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and the 2024 Summer Games, which will take place in Paris.

Ultimately this plan failed to be enacted in time for Tokyo 2020, which is currently engaged in the process of selling tickets for next year’s event.

Image: Jon Wick (Flickr)