Olympic torch hoax: Lucrative eBay bids for London torches were fake

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Two Olympic torchbearers listed their torches on eBay this week and vowed to donate proceeds to charities. When the winning bids came in around $250,000 for each, it sounded too good to be true. It was.

Both sellers admitted on Tuesday that the massive bids for their London 2012 torches were apparently a hoax. Neither woman has been contacted by their respective buyers, leading both to wonder if the suspicious bids were ever real.

Sarah Simonds, 38, put up her torch and relay uniform in order to benefit a local gardening group. When the winning bid came to around $242,000, it gained worldwide news. Yet in the 48 hours since the auction, Simonds has heard nothing from the buyer, who had a 100 percent feedback rating.

"This is incredibly disappointing not only because The People's Plot [the gardening group] will miss out on this wonderful funding, but because it could now leave me out-of-pocket too," she told The Daily Mail. "eBay has already been in contact asking me to pay the 10 percent selling fee for the item, amounting to over £15,000 [approx. $23,600]."

[Yahoo! Sports Shop: Buy 2012 London Olympics gear]

A British teenager was also disheartened to learn that a $230,000 bid on her torch was a hoax. Sophia Cowburn, 19, was trying to raise money for a charity that honors her twin brother, Ben, who killed himself after suffering from depression. She said she found out immediately that the bid was fake.

"We're currently in the procedures of going back through the other bidders to see who's real and if anybody does want to make that kind of vast donation," she told the BBC.

Both causes are worthy -- well, one more than another -- and we hope the women get their expected funding. I wouldn't hold out hope. There will be 8,000 torchbearers before the Opening Ceremony on July 27. That's what they call "flooding the market." It's why a Mickey Mantle rookie card is worth so much and a Ken Griffey Jr. isn't. If each torchbearer was able to sell their torch for $250,000, it would generate $2 billion from buyers. You do the math. (Plus, if you're rich enough to drop a cool quarter-million on an Olympic torch and interested enough in the Olympics to do so, I'm pretty sure you'd have had enough connections to get on that list of torchbearers.)

On the bright side, this burst of publicity has drawn attention to Simonds and Cowburn's causes. Here's the link for Invictus Trust. You don't need to buy a torch to donate.

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