PARIS (AP) – Organizers of next year’s Paris Olympics have promised relatively modest prices and “egalitarian” access thanks to an online system that aims to revolutionize ticketing and bring crowds into stadiums and arenas for just $26 to events.
However, as the month-long inaugural round draws to a close, many “lucky” winners chosen to purchase the first 3 million tickets (out of a total of 10 million) are feeling frustrated, angry and betrayed because their only option during the 48- -Hour purchase window paid at least 200 euros ($212) per ticket for the few remaining events on offer.
And since the ticketing system requires the purchase of multi-sport packages, the total cost for many buyers ran into thousands of dollars.
When English teacher Amélie Beney and her 9-year-old son won the lottery to register at the Olympics ticket office last week, affordable tickets to many events were gone and all but one of their favorite sports – BMX, water polo and soccer – had sold out.
There were tickets for a football game for 50 euros, but Beney also had to buy at least two tickets for two additional events. Tickets available included basketball or handball for 150 euros ($160), swimming for 230 euros ($244), and a whopping 690 euros ($732) for a qualifying event in track and field.
“Who can afford tickets at this price?” asked Beney. “I can’t.”
Beney was disappointed and said her son’s excitement about competing in the home Olympiads on his 10th birthday vanished when they signed out without buying anything.
“I really wanted tickets to the Olympic Games. I wanted my son to have this unique experience … in our city,” Beney said. “I became disillusioned (with the ticketing system) and the prices. That’s just crazy.”
In order to buy tickets for the first round, your name had to be drawn from a lottery. Since February 13th, lucky winners will be notified via email of their 48-hour window to purchase between three and up to 30 tickets for at least three different events out of 32 available. The first ticket round ends on March 15th.
The organizers are aware of the high demand and recognize that not everyone who wants to attend the Paris Olympics will be able to get a ticket, and even fewer will be able to get tickets at a bargain price.
“We know people will be disappointed and we know we don’t have tickets for everyone,” Michael Aloisio, deputy director general of the Paris Olympics, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But we also know that we will soon be opening further sales phases with more tickets.”
Ticket sales make up a significant part of the revenue – a third according to Aloisio – that the Paris organizers have to pay for the Olympic Games.
“The challenge for us was to make sure that goal doesn’t compromise our goal of making these games accessible,” said Aloisio.
Last year’s announcement that there would be 1 million tickets for €24 ($26) and more than 4 million for less than €50 ($53) was met with enthusiasm by fans in France and around the world. However, these tickets were collected in the first days of the lottery, so the “lucky ones” were later drawn with high prizes and few events to choose from.
Aloisio said that only 10% of every 10 million tickets cost more than 200 euros ($212).
“It’s these tickets that allow other tickets to be more accessible and balance everything,” he said.
Robin Allison Davis, a 38-year-old American and self-proclaimed “Olympic superfan,” said she didn’t expect to find a bargain when it came her turn to shop for tickets to her favorite sports — gymnastics, swimming and track and field .
She was willing to pay 260 euros ($276) per ticket to watch a two-hour gymnastics qualifying event, but then got frustrated when the online ticket office appeared to have turned into a virtual casino.
“I knew it was going to be expensive, but why does the system that promised me freedom and choice in building my own Olympics package lure me into buying expensive tickets for sports I don’t want to watch when I do want to get expensive tickets? an event I really want to see,” Davis said. “The ticket package thing is a racket.”
Davis has lived in Paris for six and a half years and works as a freelance journalist. She didn’t buy any tickets in the first round and said she’ll try her luck again for the second draw in May and splurge on individual tickets.
Aloisio, the organizer of the organizing committee, defended the ticket package system and said the Paris organizers wanted to stimulate curiosity about other sports during the Olympics.
“These packages are a way to get people interested and buy tickets to a water polo semi-final, hockey or 7v7 rugby, sports that may have been less in demand,” Aloisio said.
A total of 10 million tickets for the Olympic Games and 3.4 million for the Paralympics will be made available on the online platform. Individual tickets will be available in the second round, which begins on May 11th. Registration for this draw begins on March 15th.
The third phase is expected to start at the end of the year, when all the remaining tickets go on sale.
Surk reported from Nice, France. Associated Press reporter Alex Turnbull in Paris contributed to this report.