Some complain about prices, but IOC officials and sponsors say they are very competitive

Cheap or expensive? The question emerged as soon as Athens 2004, the games organizers, had announced the ticket prices on Wednesday afternoon. Some media representatives had apparently taken the government line that the Games would be «affordable for all Greeks,» as Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos had repeated earlier that day, too literally. So, when Athens 2004 Chief Operating Officer Marton Simitsek said, «We did not say that all Greeks can attend all the events,» the reaction among the media representatives present was mostly hostile. «Simitsek punctures the myth of the Olympics for all Greeks,» one of them said. In the end, most of the following day’s relevant headlines did not reflect that mood, although some did. For those familiar with Sydney’s pricing structure, however, the prices were a positive surprise. «Athens 2004 did a very good job: The tickets are available at affordable prices and access to them is easy thanks to the use of the best means, including the Internet. Furthermore, easy access to the Games has been rendered possible for all spectators,» said Denis Oswald, chairman of the International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission, which oversees preparations for the Athens Games. The last part of his statement refers to the fact that the ticket price includes public transport to and from the venues, something not included at previous Olympics. «We are pleased that the ticket prices are competitive compared to those of Sydney, and in fact cheaper because we believe that the demand for tickets in Greece will be quite high,» said Peter Franklin, Director of sponsor Coca-Cola’s Sports Program. A comparison with Sydney prices (adjusted for inflation, according to Athens 2004) shows, for example, that spectators paid from 22 to 29 percent more to attend swimming qualifiers, and from 31 to 65 percent more to attend the finals, than Athens spectators will pay. In athletics, another popular event, Athens spectators will pay from 54 to 66 percent less than in Sydney to watch qualifiers, 15 to 40 percent less to watch finals and, on the final day, 3 to 47 percent less. A further look at the charts shows that the spread in prices will be much bigger in Athens, mostly because the cheapest tickets will be really cheap. Thus, as Simitsek said, the cheaper tickets are, in fact, subsidized by the more expensive ones. In this way, Athens 2004 hopes to draw spectators and fill the stadiums. Officials are confident venues will be full and have excluded taking schoolchildren and army conscripts to attend events for free, as happened during the 1997 World Athletics Championships.