Over one in two tickets unsold

Nearly 130,000 tickets for the August 13-29 Olympics were sold over the past three days, according to the latest figures published by Athens 2004 officials, pushing up the grand total to 2.4 million – still under half the 5.3 million initially put on sale. As more and more Greeks queued for a last-minute purchase, Deputy Culture Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia told BBC television yesterday that sales have reached «about 60,000 tickets a day.» With just six days left to go before the Games open, interest was strong over the weekend. More than 54,000 seats were sold on Friday, and a further 52,000 on Saturday. By late afternoon yesterday, the total was in the area of 23,000. Petralia expressed confidence that «all venues will be full with spectators,» which the government has said is as much a concern as ensuring the smooth functioning of the Games. But almost 55 percent of the tickets have yet to attract buyer interest. Meanwhile, Athens 2004 officials on Saturday played down a newspaper report that the organizing committee had shown preferential treatment to Greek politicians by setting aside 5,000 tickets earlier this year for sale to the country’s four largest political parties. «There is no scandal,» organizing committee spokesman Serafeim Kotrotsos said. «Nobody was given free tickets… The purchase offer to MPs was at the initiative of Athens 2004, in recognition of the state’s contribution to the Olympics.» According to the Cosmos tou Ependyti weekly, Greece’s 300 MPs and 24 Members of the European Parliament have been granted free access to Olympic events. The Communist Party and Synaspismos Left Coalition said they had not taken up the ticket offer. PASOK said it had bought 237 tickets, while ruling New Democracy said it had not received any free tickets. According to the International Olympic Committee, over 3.9 billion people will watch the Games on television.

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