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VANOC ‘not concerned’ about negative US press coverage

Vancouver Olympics organizers dismissed claims raised in a U.S. newspaper that ordinary Americans have trouble buying or affording event tickets. A recent Seattle Times series suggested the 2010 Winter Games is becoming a playground for the rich and well connected.

“Frankly, we’re not concerned at all about the article,” VANOC deputy CEO Dave Cobb told reporters today.

The American reporting suggested Games organizers hadn’t made enough U.S. tickets available, despite huge demand south of the border. It pointed out sponsors, media and VIPs get the “lion’s share” of tickets to the most hotly watched events.

Remaining tickets are often sold in prohibitively expensive packages.

The Seattle Times implied VANOC had failed to deliver on its promise to hold an open Olympics affordable to regular Joes.

“Welcome to the dark side of the Olympic flame,” it concluded. “The public will be a bit player in the made-for-TV drama unfolding in Vancouver and Whistler.”

Organizing committees go through a “very rigorous” process to decide how many tickets go to each country, Cobb said. By far, the U.S. got the largest allocation outside Canada, he added.

During the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, organizers made 18,000 tickets available to Canada, he said. VANOC has allocated over 90,000 to the U.S.

“So approximately five times as many tickets have been allocated to the Americans for our Games then was the case in 2002,” Cobb said.

VANOC lets National Olympic Committees charge a 20 per cent mark-up on tickets to cover their costs, Cobb said. Once the organizations have the tickets, they can sell them at their discretion.

That may include negotiations with resale companies such as Jet Set Sports, which often charge huge mark-ups on hotel and event packages.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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