PARIS — Organizers of next year’s Paris Olympics have promised relatively modest prices and “equal” access to the events, thanks to an online system intended to revolutionize ticket sales and bring the masses into stadiums and arenas for as little as $26.
As the initial sales cycle ends, however, many “lucky” winners who were chosen to shop for the first 3 million tickets (out of a total of 10 million) are feeling disappointed, angry and cheated that their only choice during the 48-hour shopping period was paying at least 200 euros ($212) per ticket for the few remaining events on offer. And because the ticketing system requires the purchase of multi-sport packages, the total cost for many buyers ran into the thousands of dollars.
When English teacher Amélie Beney and her 9-year-old son won the lottery last week to join the Olympic ticket office, the budget tickets for many events were gone and all but one of their preferred sports – BMX, water polo and the football — sold out.
There were tickets for one soccer match at 50 euros ($53), but Beney would also have to buy at least two tickets for two additional events. Tickets available included basketball or handball at 150 euros ($160), swimming at 230 euros ($244) and 690 euros ($732) for a qualifying event in athletics.
“Who can afford tickets at this price?” Beney asked. “I can not”.
Beney was disappointed and said her son’s excitement about attending the hometown Olympics on his 10th birthday evaporated as they logged off without buying anything.
“I really wanted to have tickets to the Olympics. I wanted my son to have this unique experience … in our town,” Beney said. “I was disappointed (with the ticketing system) and the prices. This is just crazy.”
To buy tickets in the first round, your name had to be drawn in a lottery. Beginning February 13, lucky winners have been notified by email of their 48-hour window to purchase between three and 30 tickets to at least three different events, out of the 32 available. The first round of ticketing ends on March 15.
Organizers say they are aware of the high demand and acknowledge that not everyone who wants to attend the Paris Olympics will be able to get a ticket, and even fewer will be able to get bargain tickets.
“We know people are going to be disappointed and we know we don’t have tickets for everyone,” Michael Aloisio, deputy general manager of the Paris Olympics, told The Associated Press. “But we also know we have more selling phases opening soon with more tickets.”
Ticket sales are a significant part of the revenue – a third, according to Aloisio – that Paris organizers have to pay for the Olympics.
“The challenge for us was not to compromise our goal of making these Games accessible,” Aloisio said.
The announcement last year that there would be 1 million tickets at 24 euros ($26) and more than 4 million for less than 50 euros ($53) was enthusiastically received by fans in France and around the world. However, these tickets were collected during the early days of the draw, leaving the “lucky” ones to be drawn later with high prices and few events to choose from.
Aloisio said only 10 percent of the 10 million tickets cost more than 200 euros ($212).
“These tickets allow other tickets to be more affordable and balance it all out,” he said.
Robin Allison Davis, a 38-year-old American and self-proclaimed “Olympic superfan,” said she didn’t expect to find a bargain when it was her turn to look for tickets to her favorite sports – gymnastics, swimming and track and field.
She was willing to pay 260 euros ($276) per ticket to watch two hours of gymnastics qualifying, but was then disappointed when the online ticket office appeared to have turned into a virtual casino.
“I knew it would be expensive, but why is the system that promised to give me freedom and choice to form my own Olympic package trick me into buying expensive tickets to sports I don’t want to see if I want to get expensive tickets to an event I really want let’s see,” Davis said. “The package ticket thing is a racket.”
Davis has lived in Paris for six and a half years and works as a freelance journalist. She did not buy tickets in the first round, saying she would try her luck again in the second draw in May and sell out individual tickets.
Aloisio, the organizing committee official, defended the ticket package system and said Paris organizers aimed to stimulate curiosity about other sports during the Olympics.
“These packages are a way to get people interested and buy tickets to a semi-final of water polo, hockey or rugby sevens, sports for which there might have been less demand,” Aloisio said.
In total, 10 million tickets for the Olympic Games and 3.4 million for the Paralympic Games will be made available on the online platform. Individual tickets will be made available in the second round, which begins on May 11. Registration for this draw begins on March 15th.
The third phase is expected to start at the end of the year, when all the remaining tickets will be made available.
Surk reported from Nice, France. Associated Press reporter Alex Turnbull in Paris contributed to this report.
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