‘Why hurry?’

“We are asking the Greeks to run to be on time,» Athens Olympics chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki said yesterday, referring to the ticket sales for the 2004 Olympic Games here. She should have rephrased her comment as an appeal as advance ticket sales have faltered. However, the limited response should not be attributed to the Greek habit of making decisions at the very last moment, as Angelopoulos-Daskalaki seemed to suggest, but rather to the policies of the Athens organizers. It’s common knowledge that ticket prices are too high, at least for the competitions that justify a booking 14 months in advance. No one should have trouble, for example, finding a ticket for the women’s archery qualifiers, even a few hours before the event. On the other hand, the cost of reserving seats for the weightlifting finals is prohibitive for a salaried worker with two kids. In other words, the argument «we are cheaper than Sydney» only makes sense if one takes into account low-popularity competitions. The «good ones» are out of reach. Furthermore, potential spectators are expected to pay for these highly priced tickets in cash, here and now. If demand is high and the applicant is not among the lucky ones to get a ticket, he will have his money returned within three months after the draw. Worse, people have to pick (and pay) from three categories of seats without having seen a plan illustrating the exact location of the seats. These are only some of the counterincentives. Others concern the relative complexity of the application process, the rather incomprehensible fact that the form only includes 10 entries for isolated competitions and, finally, the unattractive same-day combo tickets. Another paradox is the high price of «packages,» as they cost more than the aggregate of the ticket prices (that is because they guarantee that purchasers will be able to attend the event, i.e. there is no draw). As a result, one gets to pay 71,000 euros for 10 entries of six persons which are set at a nominal price of 14,280 euros and «uses up» three entries (that is 1,183 euros per entry) for the beach volleyball, synchronized swimming and tennis finals. In the light of these problems, which have long been pointed out, it is absurd to expect Greeks to «hurry up» and buy tickets. The 2004 organizers should have paid heed to the complaints and realized that it must follow a different course if it wants to see the venues filled with people.