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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2010

Olympics: London opens ticket process for 2012 Games

AP Sports Writer

LONDON An extra 300,000 tickets will be available for the London Olympics, bringing the total to 8 million, and organizers promise that venues will be "packed to the rafters" in 2012.

While tickets won't go on sale until next year, organizers set up a Web site (www.tickets.london2012.com) on Monday for fans to indicate which events they would like attend. The information will help organizers gauge the demand and set ticket numbers and prices accordingly.

Tickets will go on sale by lottery in the spring of 2011.

The process got off to a fast start, with 40,000 people registering in the first four hours, reinforcing organizers' hopes that the Olympics will be sold out.

"It's absolutely our ambition to have this full," London organizing committee chief executive Paul Deighton said. "It seems to me what we've got on offer here is a spectacular proposition. We're really hoping to get there."

Ticket prices and availability won't be announced until later this year after the sports competition schedules and venues have been set.

Deighton said the London organizing committee, or LOCOG, would uphold its promise of making the games "accessible and affordable."

"We will stand by what we always said: There will be millions of affordable tickets available to the British public," he said in a conference call with reporters. "Our commitment is to have our venues packed to the rafters with sports fans."

After problems with empty seats at the 2008 Beijing Games, London is considering shorter competition sessions and a ticket-return policy similar to that used at the Wimbledon tennis championships.

Along with the extra 300,000 tickets for the Olympics, an additional 500,000 will be made available for the Paralympics, which will have 2 million tickets available.

Of the total 10 million tickets, organizers said 75 percent will be sold directly to the public in Britain and the European Union.

"Anyone who signs up will be in pole position for our (lottery) of tickets," Deighton said. "We expect people to be more interested in tickets for some events than others. There is no fairer way for people to get in line for those tickets than by public (lottery)."

Of the remaining 25 percent, 13 percent will go to sports federations, national Olympic committees and foreign fans; 8 percent to corporate sponsors and rights-holding broadcasters; and 4 percent to hospitality package buyers.

Olympic tickets will be sold for about 630 sessions in 26 sports over 16 days.

Monday's initiative was aimed mainly at the British public, although people from abroad can also register on the Web site. Foreigners can only get into next year's lottery if they are from the European Union.

Most international tickets will be allocated through individual national Olympic committees. Deighton said national committees will put in their applications next fall, with tickets also going on sale in those countries in the spring of 2011.

Some local politicians and media have already raised concerns about how many tickets will be allocated to sponsors, officials and other VIPs.

"The key issue is simple: How many people will be ahead of the average Londoner in the queue for Olympic tickets?" Dee Doocey, chair of the London Assembly's economic development, sport and tourism committee, said last week.

Deighton said fewer than 1 percent of the tickets will go to "prestige hospitality" customers.

LOCOG, which has a private operating budget of $3 billion, has forecast raising $565 million from ticket sales. But Deighton said he considers that figure on the "lower end" and expects to surpass that total.

Extra tickets have been freed up due to modifications at some venues and planned changes in some competition schedules. Beach volleyball, which had single sessions lasting up to five hours in Beijing, will be broken into more and shorter sessions in London, Deighton said.

Monday's ticketing announcement came the day after the close of the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver.

"We're up next," Deighton said. "We're officially the next Olympic host city. There is nothing in front of us on the runway."