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Volume 24 No. 156


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).

In Jamaica, Andre Lowe notes the Jamaica Olympic Association yesterday announced that it will "cover all transportation expenses for the island's bobsled team, after it was officially announced that it had qualified" for the Sochi Games. In just under 24 hours, US$68,967 had been "raised through online crowd-funding platforms." Jamaica bobsled team member Winston Watts in an earlier interview noted that the team "was in need of close to US$120,000 to bankroll its trip to Sochi, pointing to transportation and accommodation, as well as the need for three sled blades as the main expenses" (Jamaica GLEANER, 1/21). Fundraising site Crowdtilt said that about 70% of the contributions "have come from U.S.-based credit and debit cards in at least 42 states," while around 20% of the contributions "have come from payments of Jamaican origin" (, 1/20).

NOT THIS TIME AROUND: QMI AGENCY's Peat & Artuso noted Toronto Economic Development Committee members yesterday voted to "put off indefinitely further study of an Olympic bid" for the '24 Summer Games. Mayor Rob Ford "stressed that a possible Olympic bid could end up costing" C$50M. Ford said, "If we got it, it would be billions of dollars ... We're not ready for it, let's concentrate on the Pan Am Games" (QMI AGENCY, 1/20). In Toronto, Betsy Powell notes no one at city hall yesterday tried to "persuade the committee to support the city's Olympic bid" (TORONTO STAR, 1/21).

OUT OF REACH: In Philadelphia, Frank Fitzpatrick noted a "serious deterrent" to the city's '24 Olympic hopes "is its financial status." No matter "how rosy Comcast's future might look, no matter how much influence and cash it might contribute to the effort, no matter how encouraging Center City's revival has been, Philadelphia can't yet afford an Olympics." Fitzpatrick: "How could a city grappling with a $5 billion pension shortfall and a $1.3 billion school-budget deficit rationalize spending five or 10 times that much on a sporting event?" Even the "bid process would be expensive." For its part, Philadelphia "bravely still counts itself a ... candidate," but it "doesn't have a water-ice's chance in hell" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/19).

ENGAGEMENT RINGS: In N.Y., Kelly DiNardo noted the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, "reopened in December" after a two-year, $60M renovation that "almost doubled its size and transformed the way the museum traces Olympics history from chronological to thematic." Museum Dir Francis Gabet said, "We planned it like a film. We worked with thematic clusters like a story-board" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/19).