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Volume 25 No. 66
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IOC, Jet Set Trying Something New With Olympic Experience

Pyeongchang 2018 organizers and its contractor, New Jersey-based hospitality firm Jet Set Sports, are trying something new in the Olympics this year at Gangneung Olympic Park: an on-site lounge available to any fan who pays for access, not merely sponsor guests.

The lounge is the centerpiece of the New Horizons Hospitality Program, designed to sell more tickets by giving the general public an experience usually enjoyed only by the “Olympic family,” the term of art for sponsors and other VIP guests of the International Olympic Committee and the organizing committee.

In the past, hospitality inside Olympic venues was given only to the “family.” And while Jet Set Sports has created its own hospitality venues and programs, those were off site and only available to ticket buyers in its authorized territories such as the United States. This program is open to ticket buyers worldwide, and is meeting a demand for value-added experiences, said Jet Set co-CEO Alan Dizdarevic.

“The needs of the spectators have changed over the years,” he said.

The roughly 5,000-square-foot club, built across from the main hockey arena and a North Face showcase, features a bar and a large buffet. Jet Set hired five chefs to spend short stints in the club during the Games, each representing either Korean cuisine or food from Japan, China and France, the next three Olympic hosts.

The program will not be profitable this year, chairman and co-CEO Sead Dizdarevic said.

“We have to be honest, this is an investment in the future,” he said.

Pricing varies widely depending on the specific event for sale and which of three tiers you buy — gold, silver or bronze. Currently, one “Gold package” ticket to the men’s ice hockey final on Feb. 25 and access to the New Horizons club that same day sells for $3,096. A “Silver package” ticket to an earlier hockey game on Feb. 20 and access to the club goes for $933.

A Pyeongchang 2018 spokesman said the program appears to be successful. Close to 90 percent of all tickets to the Games, or about 1 million, have been sold, albeit empty seats remain a big problem.

“The packages have given the spectators more options to choose from, so there really has been something for all preferences and price ranges,” a Pyeongchang 2018 spokesman said. “The feedback we have had so far has been positive and we hope that everyone taking advantage of the new service offering is having a great time here at Pyeongchang 2018.”

Aside from sweetening the deal for higher-end ticket buyers, the program has a secondary mission: decrease the number of empty seats in elite parts of the sports venues often seen on TV. A problem that has grown increasingly evident since the London Games, the IOC is working on several fronts to more efficiently distribute tickets.

The New Horizons packages include seats comparable to the elite sponsors and friends of the IOC who make up the “Olympic family.” The promotions for the tickets say they have never before been available to non-accredited personnel. “This was very carefully crafted to be sure nothing was taken away from the Olympic family,” Sead Dizdarevic said.