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Volume 10 No. 22

Events and Attractions

Heineken Cup organizers "have mounted a strong defence of their ticketing policies" as Premiership rugby side Saracens prepares to face its semifinal opponents Toulon "in front of almost 60,000 empty seats at Twickenham on Sunday," according to Robert Kitson of the London GUARDIAN. European Rugby Cup Ltd. CEO Derek McGrath has "rejected calls for discounted tickets to be made available and insists over-pricing is not to blame for the situation." The return of Jonny Wilkinson, along with a host of other big names, "has so far failed to generate much box-office fever," but McGrath believes that a modest predicted crowd of 25,000 is not ERC's fault. McGrath said: "There is a certain disappointment, but we have to prepare for all eventualities. If Ulster had beaten Saracens in the quarterfinals we'd have been in the Aviva Stadium and it would be packed out. If Leicester had beaten Toulon it would be Leicester vs. Saracens. Can you imagine if we'd already chosen a 20,000-capacity venue?" ERC also stressed that it has given each semifinal club €45,000 ($58,000) "to market the fixtures and says a number of alternative options to increase attendances have been investigated" (GUARDIAN, 4/24).

In another piece, Kitson wrote with ticket prices ranging from £35-50 ($53-76) and few Toulon supporters in the habit of traveling abroad with their team, the TV cameras "will have to be creative to divert attention from the massive gaps in the stands" (GUARDIAN, 4/23). In London, Chris Hewett reported the Heineken Cup "is already fighting for its future in the face of a rabid outbreak of boardroom politics." An atmosphere-free event at the most famous rugby stadium of them all "will hardly help matters" (INDEPENDENT, 4/23).

Olympic Gold Medalist runner Mo Farah returned to Olympic Stadium "to promote a National Lottery fun run that will be the first event to be held in the venue" since the Paralympics Closing Ceremony, according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. Farah "visited the stadium before returning to Oregon to resume training for this summer's world championships in Moscow." Farah: "It was special. I was thinking about where I was in the race at each point and imagining coming around the bend. You can still picture the crowd. I remember the packed stadium, the noise and crossing the line." Farah "will return to the Olympic Stadium to compete in the 3,000m at the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games" on July 26-27. Ten thousand runners will take part in the five-mile fun run on July 21 "that will end with a lap of the track in the Olympic Stadium." A further 2,000 runners "will take part in a shorter family fun run." Organizers "could face some criticism over the fact that tickets, which include the opportunity for two family members or friends to watch each runner finish," cost £27.50 ($41.96) each (GUARDIAN, 4/24).

FIFA "has begun selling 2014 World Cup tickets on its official website." The tickets are available in the form of VIP packages "but can only be purchased by those using a credit card belonging to tournament sponsor Visa" (XINHUA, 4/24). ... Top Indian squash players "have decided not to take part in the Asian Championships beginning on May 1 in Islamabad, citing the current security situation in Pakistan" (PTI, 4/24). ... FC Barcelona's Aug. 4 friendly in Shanghai "planned as part of a pre-season tour of Asia has been cancelled" (FOOTBALL ESPANA, 4/24). ... Indonesian Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Roy Suryo said that "he is considering to move the Islamic Solidarity Games to Jakarta after it was announced that the games, which were scheduled to take place in Riau, had been postponed." The event, which the government pushed back from June to October earlier this month, "has Jakarta in sights as the host as the capital has been considered ready due to its established sports facilities" (JAKARTA GLOBE, 4/24).