SPORTS

2004 ticket program delay

Athens Olympic organizers have pushed back their presentation of the ticketing program by three months as they grapple with a delicate question: Will spectators in the European Union’s poorest nation find the Games too costly? Athens organizers received approval last week from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone announcing the ticket program and prices until November, IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said on Tuesday. The reason, according to chief organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, is to «link our ticketing program with our communications strategy.» In other words: Athens hopes to better explain the overall pricing and sales efforts before unveiling the details. But some critics in Greece also suggest the government does not want to risk potential fallout before October municipal elections, which are seen as a bellwether of parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2004. «It is fair enough that it is a sensitive matter for the local population. I simply believe that ATHOC (the Athens organizers) wishes to have more time before it can comfortably state its program, but we didn’t have detailed discussions,» IOC Director-General François Carrard told The Associated Press during last week’s meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland. There is some worry that many Greeks may balk at the relatively high price of Olympic tickets in a country where the average monthly wage is about 1,000 euros. At the 2000 Games in Sydney, the best seats for the opening ceremony cost 761 euros and prime locations for athletics – one of the strongest sports for Greeks – were about 69 euros. The Salt Lake City opening ceremony tickets were up to $885. Greek sports federation officials have stressed that ticket prices must be affordable for all Greeks. «Athens 2004 will find the measure and balance between… the income from the tickets and having the largest possible number of Greek sports fans to watch the games,» said Vassilis Sevastis, president of the Hellenic Amateur Athletics Federation. Davies said the three-month delay will not disrupt plans to start selling tickets in early 2003. The IOC has appointed California-based Ticketmaster as the official ticket systems sponsor of the 2004 Games. The ticketing issue is just the latest delay among many that have plagued Athens since it won the right to host the Olympics five years ago on Sept. 5. Denis Oswald, the head of the IOC commission in charge of coordinating the Athens Games, said on the occasion that Athens has done much to make up for years of lost time since 1997. «Over the last two years significant progress has been made. Five years after Athens was awarded the Games, we are now at the stage where things are moving quickly,» Oswald said.