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Sochi still scrambling to sell tickets to Olympic games

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Olympictorch2014.com, APOlympic torch bearers Kamil Larin, left, and Yelena Slesarenko put their torches together during an Olympic torch relay in Volgograd, a city on the Volga River about 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) south of Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 with a monument to Motherland at the background.

Olympictorch2014.com, AP
Olympic torch bearers Kamil Larin, left, and Yelena Slesarenko put their torches together during an Olympic torch relay in Volgograd, a city on the Volga River about 800 kilometers (about 500 miles) south of Moscow, Russia, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 with a monument to Motherland at the background.

LONDON — What if they held an Olympics and nobody came?

The situation isn’t that bleak, of course, for the Sochi Games. Yet, with less than three weeks to go until the opening ceremony, hundreds of thousands of tickets remain unsold, raising the prospect of empty seats and a lack of atmosphere at Russia’s first Winter Olympics.

There are signs that many foreign fans are staying away, turned off by terrorist threats, expensive flights and hotels, long travel distances, a shortage of tourist attractions in the area, and the hassle of obtaining visas and spectator passes.

“Some people are scared it costs too much and other people are scared because of security,” senior International Olympic Committee member Gerhard Heiberg of Norway told The Associated Press. “From my country, I know that several people and companies are not going for these two reasons. Of course, there will be Norwegians there but not as many as we are used to.”

Sochi organizers announced last week that 70 percent of tickets have been sold for the games, which run from Feb. 7-23 and represent a symbol of pride and prestige for Russia and President Vladimir Putin.

So what about the remaining 30 percent?

“We are keeping a special quota for those who come for the games, so that they can indeed buy tickets for the competitions,” organizing committee chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said.

Chernyshenko said about 213,000 spectators are expected at the games, with about 75 percent likely to be Russians.

“Tickets are being snapped up fast with the most popular events being hockey, biathlon, figure skating, freestyle and snowboard,” the organizing committee said in a statement to the AP. “With 70 percent of tickets already sold and another ticketing office opening shortly, we are expecting strong last-minute ticket sales and do not envisage having empty seats.”

Sochi officials have refused to divulge how many tickets in total were put up for sale, saying the figure would only be released after the games.

However, according to IOC marketing documents seen by the AP, Sochi had a total of 1.1 million tickets on offer. That would mean about 300,000 tickets remained available.

By comparison, 1.54 million tickets were available for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and 97 percent (1.49 million) were sold. For the 2012 Summer Games in London, organizers sold 97 percent (8.2 million) of their 8.5 million tickets.

Heiberg, who chairs the IOC marketing commission, said the Russians have cut down by 50 percent on the number of spectators originally planned for the mountain events for security reasons.

“That means there will be less people and probably less enthusiasm than we had, for instance, in Lillehammer,” he said. “I hope the Russians will fill not only their indoor stadiums but there will be enough people in the stadiums for the Nordic events.”

Heiberg organized the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, which stood out for the colorful atmosphere generated by passionate Norwegian fans.

Sochi’s ticket sales began in February 2013, a year before the games. Tickets have been sold on Sochi’s official website on a first-come, first-served basis. Box offices are now open in Moscow and Sochi.

The cheapest tickets go for 500 rubles ($15), the most expensive for 40,000 rubles ($1,200). More than half of all tickets cost less than 5,000 rubles ($150). The average monthly salary in Russia is 30,000 rubles ($890).

The one and only authorized ticket office in Sochi was busy on a recent afternoon, with three dozen people lining up at what once was a waiting room at the city’s railway station. Many, however, complained that all the cheap tickets were already gone.

“Prices leave much to be desired, but what can you can do?” said Sochi resident Yana Ivolovskaya, who bought two tickets for bobsled for 2,000 rubles ($60). “We’re not going to get another Olympics in Sochi so I thought I should go.”

Fans outside Russia buy tickets from authorized dealers appointed by their national Olympic committees.

Attracting foreign visitors has been a challenge amid all the headlines about Russia’s law banning gay “propaganda,” human rights issues and — particularly — the risk of terrorism.

Back-to-back suicide bombings killed 34 people last month in Volgograd, about 400 miles (640 kilometers) from Sochi. On Sunday, an Islamic militant group in Russia’s North Caucasus claimed responsibility for the bombings and posted a video threatening to strike the Sochi Games.

CoSport, the official ticket reseller in the United States and six other countries, said the Sochi Games generated “good demand” for tickets and packages.

“We experienced demand at expected levels,” spokesman Michael Kontos said, without giving figures.

Flights to Sochi are expensive, and most international travelers have to go through Moscow, with direct flights to Sochi only available from Germany and Turkey.

Western travelers must navigate the time-consuming visa process and requirement to obtain a “spectator pass” along with their tickets. This requires providing passport details that allow authorities to screen all visitors.

“What we are hearing is that the bureaucratic complexity, with spectator passes and visa and so on, is what scares off fans, more than worries about security,” Austrian Olympic Committee spokesman Wolfgang Eichler said.

Jan Serenander, managing director of Jet Set Sports in Norway, cited a lack of tourist attractions in the Black Sea resort.

“When Sochi was announced no one had even heard of the place,” he said. “They had to get out their atlases.”

Die-hard winter sports fans, however, will not be discouraged. Orange-clad speedskating fans from the Netherlands are always among the most visible spectators at any Winter Games.

“I expect it to be orange,” Jeroen de Roever, manager of official Duch ticket seller ATPI, said of Sochi’s speedskating venue. “We have been sold out for quite a while.”

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120 more reader comments:

  1. good.. hope they don’t sell

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:01pm
  2. I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:01pm
  3. I wish they had just chosen a different spot, Russia doesn’t deserve to host a shitting contest let alone the Olympics.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:01pm
  4. I would totally go to the shitting contest.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:05pm
  5. Don’t go! Ski Colorado instead!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:02pm
  6. We've also got nice slopes here in New York's Adirondack Mountains. We even hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. :)

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:17pm
  7. Lake Tahoe is gorgeous this time of year :)

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:35pm
  8. only when Colorado legalizes same sex marriage. Come to New England and ski here where it's legal in all 6 states.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:39pm
  9. Lake Tahoe did not even have enough snow for the US winter Olympic trials CA is in a horrible drought atm :-(

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:15pm
  10. good

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:02pm
  11. GOOD!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:02pm
  12. Yes good.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:02pm
  13. BOYCOTT SOCHI AND ALL ITS SPONSORS!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:03pm
  14. Agree, boycott the sponsors at least while Olympics is going to make a point

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:24pm
  15. I hope they go broke.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:03pm
  16. Good, and I hope that those who do attend will be safe.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:04pm
  17. They can’t even give them away.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:04pm
  18. We should have an all gay Olympics. It would be absolutely Fabulous.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:05pm
  19. Fu3#* Them!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:05pm
  20. Serves them right!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:06pm
  21. BOYCOTT OLYMPICS IN RUSSIA AND THE SPONSORS THAT SUPPORT A ANTIGAY COUNTRY

    LET OUR GAY PEOPLE BE FREE! LET OUR PEOPLE GO!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:06pm
  22. So I think it is a little BS that people are trying to boycott the Olympics. Those athletes have worked hard to get whete they are and deserve to be recognized. Put your issue with some douche aside for a minute and support those who need it.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:06pm
  23. The athletes can still compete and earn their medals even if there are no people in the stands watching them.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:28pm
  24. This issue is way more than a simple "douche" of a man and his opinions. It has gone over into policy.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:02pm
  25. BOYCOTT!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:08pm
  26. Well TV networks that are covering it will be sad when their number of viewers drops for the Olympics this time around.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:08pm
  27. Maybe Russia will realize it was a bad idea to ban the gay community from the Olympics & finally see the error of their ways & change their views upon them as a whole… Asking too much?! Probably… One can only hope though right?!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:08pm
  28. Face it most countries don’t like Russia or want to visit there.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:08pm
  29. Plus you need a visa which is not easy to get, and its expensive.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:11pm
  30. they should of pulled out of russia anyways with all putin shit anyways. I didn’t capitalize because neither are important enough.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:10pm
  31. So far these games are shaping up to be a disaster and they have not even started yet.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:10pm
  32. Couldn’t pay me to go

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:11pm
  33. BOYCOTT

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:11pm
  34. I wouldn’t go if you gave me a free trip and a ton of spending money. Screw Russia!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:12pm
  35. Unfortunately for the Olympics Russia will not be financially supported by people vehemently oppposed to the country’s dictatorial laws. All hail Grand High Saint Putin of Mother Russia and her Holy Orthodox Church!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:13pm
  36. Karma is a Bitch for sure.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:13pm
  37. HA-HA!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:14pm
  38. I hope they sell none.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:15pm
  39. GOOD. SHOULD STAY THIS WAY!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:18pm
  40. gee, wonder why?!!! boycott

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:19pm
  41. Even if Russia didn’t happen to be so completely and blatantly anti-gay, I still wouldn’t go because of all the terrorism that’s running rampant. It’s not a safe place for anybody to be right now.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:20pm
  42. Financial Ruin I hope

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:21pm
  43. Once again I find it odd that all of my LGBT family is more concerned about our issues than the real ones at hand there. Like the suicide bombers that have been laying in wait for this. I agree that this should have never been a venue BUT, we need to focus on this issue, and if a boycott is what it takes then let it be about safety rather than personal issues.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:23pm
  44. Human Rights are NOT just personal. Thousands are been beaten and even murdered for being who they are from birth.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:40pm
  45. Oh yeah, I agree with that but why is it that I am the only one that has brought this up?

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:41pm
  46. People voting with their $$$!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:23pm
  47. No gays and come get blown up!!! Pass!!!”

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:25pm
  48. they couldn’t even pay me to watch it on TV!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:25pm
  49. They couldn’t pay me enough. It’s been on the news this morning that at least 4 “Black Widows” are already there and I wouldn’t give the bigots any of my money.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:27pm
  50. Its not only terrorism that a gay person would fear from Russia. Its there law against gays and the gay community that people from our country is in danger of to Russia that will be made example of.
    A boycott against Russia is the only answer. No violence, but a peaceful solution against all antigay countries.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:29pm
  51. The Republicans here and nationalists in Russia are the same. I TOTALLY agree with you.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:42pm
  52. This isn’t just because of their anti-LGBT policies. The majority of it is because people don’t really feel like dying. I can’t think of a sporting event worth dying for.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:30pm
  53. Exactly

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:44pm
  54. Go broke asshole commies! Too bad Putin is the face of hate.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:32pm
  55. The fact is that Russia is not communist. There are nationalists in power in Russia at the moment.

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:38pm
  56. While not technically "communist", I don't see any Russian leaders going against Putin.... if you do you go to prison or simply "disappear".

    Replied on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:04pm
  57. Maybe their tag line should be “you’ll have a gay old time!”

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:37pm
  58. No sport is worth risking your life for. All the millions Putin wasted & bashes gays, terrorist running around with bombs ,It isn’t worth the risk.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:38pm
  59. If the Olympics were in the US, none of that crap would be happening…

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:41pm
  60. No one wants to go to a homophobic parade thats probably going to be blown up anyways.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:43pm
  61. Risking my life and being ridiculed and labeled as pedophile in a foreign country? How about: FUCK NO I WON’T GO!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:43pm
  62. Boycott, no one go….don’t watch it and don’t give a s—about it.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:47pm
  63. Who in their write mind would pay to go there?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:49pm
  64. I hope they loose all their money!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:51pm
  65. Jeff, Russia is already broke. It’s a third world country. The government hoards their and the people suffer for it. Don’t blame the people for what the corrupted government has done. Their democracy is not our democracy. I too am boycotting the Olympics — we shouldn’t even be going over there. However, I am wishing our athletes a safe trip, especially the gay ones because Putin has made it illegal to be openly gay there. People are being murdered and jailed there. So, while many of us will not be watching the games we should still be rooting for our teams, our athletes, and hoping they’ll kick the Russian athletes asses in the Olympics. Again, don’t blame the country or its people for what one man (if you could call him that) and It’s corrupted government are doing. The people have absolutely no say in that one man decides to do — what laws he decides to pass. Educate yourselves about what’s really going on and who’s calling the shots over there and about the mass poverty. Just as you educate yourselves about North Korea and South Africa, and Support the people not the governments Support the people of Russia who are fighting for their rights by going to HRCs website and buying the Russian love conquers hate tshirt. 100% of the proceeds go to the Russian activists fighting for the rights of the lgbtq community.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:53pm
  66. To hell with them.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:54pm
  67. If the US teams go to that monstrous, bigoted, LGBT hating country, I will never watch or support the Olympics again….. :(

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:55pm
  68. I will not watch the games, and yes I give a shit about gays being put to death in other countries. A boycott against the Olympics in Russia is the start in a peaceful solution. Its the sponsors that support Russia in there hopes to make lots of money. The people all over the world of the gay community support this boycott to tell countries like Russia that they cannot be bullied no more! Let our people be free!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:56pm
  69. Any Athlete who doesn’t go to the games in Homophobic Russia, should receive a humanitarian award from US!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:57pm
  70. You have to be crazy to go

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 4:59pm
  71. i hope the entire country goes broke

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:01pm
  72. Between the terrorists and bombings and the blatantly anti-gay propaganda labeling all gays as pedophiles out to molest Russian children…I cannot say I’m surprised. When these games fail miserably maybe the IOC will realise and admit they made a terrible mistake in awarding the games to the Soviet Union….I mean Russia, lol

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:01pm
  73. Support the athletes but boycott each and ALL sponsors!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:04pm
  74. I hope it is the worse attended, most expensive Olympics ever…. Hateful bigots :-(

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:05pm
  75. I certainly wouldn’t go! And I went to 2002 & 2010.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:07pm
  76. If we were to refuse to send athletes to this games, we would be making a statement on the backs of young people who have worked a lifetime for this opportunity. It’s easy for us armchair observers to demand a boycott, but we don’t pay the price. Support our elite athletes; don’t support Russia.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:10pm
  77. Stay AWAY Americans

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:18pm
  78. Putin created this mess, and the Russian people will suffer the monetary loss… Very upsetting…

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:18pm
  79. They couldn’t pay me to go to those games

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:19pm
  80. Sochi is about as popular as Chris Christie these days.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:21pm
  81. I hope they still have over 25% tickets left.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:29pm
  82. I hope no one is hurt, these games would never attract me… I had often thought how wonderful to visit Russia, not any more…

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:34pm
  83. Boycott the games and the sponsors.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:34pm
  84. Putin can take each one of those little unsold tickets, fold it fives ways, and stick it where the sun don’t shine.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:42pm
  85. good fuck Putin why would people come to a cold hell hole like russia only to be geat for whom they love.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:45pm
  86. Good. I hope this is a deservedly epic failure for Putin and for Russia.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:47pm
  87. I just want to know who in the hell thought holding the Olympic games in Sochi was a good idea in the first place.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:54pm
  88. BOYCOTT!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:56pm
  89. Laws in Russia inspire terrorism and violence. It’s not worth being murdered just to watch some one ice skate or ski.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 5:59pm
  90. i am on the side of the bombers on this who just want independence from evil bear Russia..WELCOME TO THE Sochi 2014 Winter Games …bombs going off now and then without any serious injuries…ahh,just a wish i dont care :)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:00pm
  91. BOYCOTT SOCHI

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:07pm
  92. Yep. That wasn’t my point.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:08pm
  93. I hope people stay away in droves. Russia has created a hate filled environment and does not deserve to be reported!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:21pm
  94. This Year 2014, I AM NOT WATCHING ANY OF THE GAYS IN SOCHI, DUE TO THEIR IGNORANCE TOWARDS LGBT! If “Mother Russia” is against Homosexuals, This Homosexual is AGAINST MOTHER RUSSIA!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:27pm
  95. Boycott!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:35pm
  96. no one likes a homophobe or those who enable them. especially when this olympics has the potential to be the biggest blood bath ever. worse than Munich

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:38pm
  97. Scramble away, bitches!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:47pm
  98. I’m not going to watch Sochi. No Thanks to Anti-Gays/Homophobia in Russia. ZERO TOLERANCE!.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 6:57pm
  99. Good luck with that!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:04pm
  100. Buying tickets to an event in a country that abuses innocent citizens, hmmm…no f-ing thanks.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:18pm
  101. What point would boycotting do? This is for the love of sport for some of us who love the olympics winter and summer.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:19pm
  102. Boycotting the bigoted nation and anything they have to do with. Sorry Olympians! ;-)

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:21pm
  103. GREAT!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:29pm
  104. They will do like China did and use cinematics

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:30pm
  105. Good. I hope the city and country has to declare bankruptcy. Hatred always loses.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:38pm
  106. I wont be going OR Watching

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 7:52pm
  107. There’s a surprise….

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:02pm
  108. I’ll be watching and BOYCOTTinG all adverts.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:06pm
  109. I wouldn’t go to these games even if someone paid ME to. Not only do I not agree with their bullshit views on homosexuals, I don’t wanna get myself blown up or shot in a terrorist attack. These games are not the place to be :/

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:08pm
  110. I can’t imagine why! It couldn’t be those 6 terrorists that are on the loose, because Russia is too busy rounding up, beating up and imprisoning LGBT folks than to PAY EFFING ATTENION TO REAL PROBLEMS?

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 8:50pm
  111. no one should go, boycott it

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:07pm
  112. Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:08pm
  113. it’s a no brainier to boycott, it’s just unfortunate for the athletes that trained so hard.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:14pm
  114. Wow, it would be swell if they lost money on this. Then they could “rethink” giving the Olympics to a nation that behaves like this.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:30pm
  115. Michelle Diane

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:38pm
  116. SCREW Them!!!! I really don’t kow why anyone would want to go there.

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:42pm
  117. I hope they lose their ass

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:42pm
  118. I’ve stopped buying any of the sponsors merchandise, best thing to do I to stop buying there products because it’s the best way to hurt the companies in there pockets & profits

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 9:49pm
  119. This one is really gonna fizzle!

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:02pm
  120. Im wondering who chose Sochi for the event location

    Posted on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 10:06pm