Sports fans around the world have been swindled by an international Internet scam which offered thousands of bogus tickets for the Beijing Games, Olympic officials said on Monday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced it was taking action to shut down the fraudsters, but the move came too late to help the victims find replacement seats at the Games.
Among those left out of pocket were the families of Olympic athletes in both Australia and New Zealand, with people in the United States, Japan, Norway, China and Britain also reportedly conned by the sophisticated sting.
"We cannot accept people paying money for tickets and not getting them," said Gerhard Heiberg, an IOC executive board member.
Heiberg said the issue was raised last week, with both the IOC and the United States Olympic Committee filing a lawsuit on Friday in a district court in California, accusing at least six websites of selling illegitimate or nonexistent tickets.
However, a U.S. lawyer who said he had lost $12,000 in the fraud, accused the IOC of complacency.
"They have known about these sites for months and months and did nothing," said Jim Moriarty, the partner of a Houston-based law firm which is looking to represent fellow victims in any subsequent legal actions.
"They have dashed the hopes and dreams of thousands of people who have been planning for years to go the Games, and have already paid thousands of dollars for airfare and what they thought were legitimate tickets," he said.