SBD/January 21, 2014/Olympics

Sochi Ticket Sales Lag With 300,000 Reportedly Unsold Amid Security Concerns

Safety concerns around the Sochi Games have made tickets harder to sell
With less than three weeks until the opening ceremony of the Sochi Games on Feb. 7, "hundreds of thousands of tickets remain unsold, raising the prospect of empty seats and a lack of atmosphere at Russia's first Winter Olympics," according to Stephen Wilson of the AP. 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." Sochi organizers announced last week that 70% of tickets "have been sold for the games." SOCOG President & CEO Dmitry Chernyshenko said, "We are keeping a special quota for those who come for the games, so that they can indeed buy tickets for the competitions." Chernyshenko said that "about 213,000 spectators are expected at the games" with about 75% "likely to be Russians." 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, IOC marketing documents show that Sochi "had a total of 1.1 million tickets on offer," which would mean "about 300,000 tickets remained available." By comparison, 1.54 million tickets were available for the '10 Vancouver Games and 97% (1.49 million) were sold. Organizers for the '12 London Games sold 97% (8.2 million) of their 8.5 million tickets (AP, 1/21).

MEASURE FOR MEASURE: U.S. officials yesterday said that the Pentagon "will deploy at least two warships and several transport aircraft in the Black Sea near Sochi to respond to any terrorist attack and help evacuate American athletes and officials." In DC, Rowan Scarborough reports the State Department "will take the lead if evacuations become necessary." The ships "will have helicopters that could fly Americans out of the country." Aircraft on standby in Germany "could be at Sochi in about two hours, if needed" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/21). USA TODAY's Kelly Whiteside cites security experts as saying the strength of terrorist threats aimed at disrupting the Games are "unprecedented" (USA TODAY, 1/21). In N.Y., Filip Bondy reports the USOC is "going ahead with travel plans to Sochi for its athletes and officials" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/21). Bruins and Team Canada C Patrice Bergeron said of terrorist threat to the Games, "It is scary to some extent. I’m not necessarily concerned about it right now." He added, "My family, my wife, my brother went to Vancouver, but they’re not going this time. I’ve got to say security is part of it" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/21). In L.A., Bill Dwyre writes, "Once again, security is trumping sport." There is a "sadness that it has come to this, that something as healing as international sports competition has to share the wonders of its athleticism and joy of its celebrations with the fear of evil" (L.A. TIMES, 1/21). Also in DC, Charles Lane writes under the header, "It Should Be Game Over For The Olympics." Russia President Vladimir Putin's government "is not the first host dictatorship to taint the Olympics." Lane: "How many more such embarrassments must we endure before ending this corrupt quadrennial exercise?" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/21).

SPONSOR PUTS TRUST IN IOC: IOC TOP sponsor Dow Chemical Chair & CEO Andrew Liveris said his company is not worried about any possible terror activity because the IOC "is on top of it." Liveris: "The IOC works with everyone, including the host country the host city and, of course, companies like ours. We're still having a large customer program there. I'll be there at the Opening (Ceremony) with customers. We’re going" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 1/21).
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