Nearly 3 mln tickets sold
A significant psychological barrier in the 2004 Summer Olympics was set to be broken yesterday as long-lagging ticket sales approached the 3-million mark, with Athens 2004 organizers claiming longstanding revenue targets all but reached and excellent overall turnout during the Games’ first weekend despite the August 15 holiday, disappointing results from home athletes and the prevalence of low-demand events thus far. Press spokesman Seraphim Kotrotsos also told the press yesterday that the Games were running «very smoothly,» although high meltemia (northerly winds) disrupted sailing off Aghios Cosmas on the Saronic Gulf and forced a cancellation of all rowing and canoeing events scheduled for yesterday at the controversial flat-water venue at Schinias, near Marathon, in northeast Attica. His colleague, communications General Manager Michalis Zacharatos, said that Sunday’s ticket sales topped 45,000 (against a top weekday take of over 80,000), and that the total number of tickets sold so far came to 2,920,000. Sales were expected to carry this figure over 3 million, out of a total of 5.3 million available. This would approach the long-stated revenue target of 183 million euros, reachable with 3.1-3.4 million sales. Nearly a million were for football, competed in four cities, although early matches have been sparsely attended. Comparative figures from Barcelona 1992 were given as 3,210,000, while 2.7 million total tickets were sold for the Seoul 1988 Olympics. Figures released later indicated that of 322,135 total seats available for all of the 22 sports and 20 Olympic venues utilized in Sunday’s action, some 181,322 had been sold. This makes a net capacity sold of 56 percent. The corresponding figure for the sports at the main OAKA complex was 69 percent. Ups and downs Individual events and sports have varied widely in popularity, usually reflecting the amount of local interest and Greek participation but also other factors like time of day. About half of Sunday’s events were at or below 50 percent, while 10 events were at 99-100 capacity. Aquatic events were, predictably, among the highest in demand, with one session of water polo (featuring Greece playing Germany) selling out, and another, morning round reaching 64 percent. Predictably, swimming was packed out as well, though oddly the morning preliminaries sold out totally whereas the evening finals sold 99 percent. Despite its distance from the city center, the events at Markopoulo, including shooting (small venue) and the equestrian preliminaries nearby, both essentially sold out. TV angles have occasionally created an impression of empty space even in venues well filled, such as early rounds of gymnastics. But photographic evidence has indicated low attendance at some (soccer, archery) events that seemingly fall far below even the capacity numbers that were mentioned. The events that have lagged include those preliminary rounds in sports with little local following. Handball, baseball, badminton and table tennis, even one basketball session, hovered at 40 percent or below, but popularity very much depended on who was playing and when. For example, an afternoon volleyball session sold just a third of its seats, while another involving Greek and US teams sold out, as did Sunday’s evening basketball session that saw Greece defeat Australia, preceded by Team USA’s thrashing by Puerto Rico. The spokesmen were confident that with Greeks returning to Athens after the August 15 national holiday, and with several Greek medal-hopefuls competing this week, out of the 400-plus team, results will improve even further. Track-and-field events begin on Friday and should do well. Zacharatos insisted that there would be no giveaways or discounts. In another announcement, as the Kenteris-Thanou controversy continued to simmer, the IOC announced that 290 pre-event drugs tests had been administered through Sunday (half urine, half blood), and 184 post-event tests. Some 3,000 will be administered during the Games period (July 30 – August 29).