Sochi Spotlight: Ticket sales lagging for Olympic events 

Attendance figures likely to pale in comparison to 2010 Games

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If you happen to be in the Sochi area next month and are hoping to watch some of the events in person, don't worry — there are still tickets available. Like, a lot of them.

The Associated Press reported this week that as many as 300,000 spectator tickets remain unsold with just a couple of weeks until the opening ceremonies. Sochi organizers recently announced that 70 per cent of all tickets had been sold, but that's well short of the 97 per cent purchase rate seen at the last two Olympics in Vancouver and London.

Take into account that the 2010 Games had 450,000 more tickets up for grabs than Sochi, and it's easy to see that attendance figures will be significantly lower than the last Winter Olympics.

The various sources interviewed by AP for the story suggested that high ticket prices are a major barrier for Russians, who are expected to make up three quarters of the attendees during the Games. For would-be international ticket buyers, security concerns and the difficulty of travelling to the Black Sea resort appear to be what's keeping many away.

BOMBER MAY ALREADY BE IN SOCHI

With that in mind, ticket sales aren't likely to be taking off following various reports this week indicating that Russian officials believe a suicide bomber has already infiltrated security in Sochi, and may not be the only one.

Multiple media outlets reported that police are trying to locate three female suspects, including Ruzanna Ibragimova, a 22-year-old widow of an Islamic militant who has possibly arrived in Sochi, planning to carry out a terrorist attack.

Russian police have linked Ibragimova to the Caucasus Emirate group that has threatened the Olympics.

BIATHLETE GIVES UP SPOT TO TWIN SISTER

A feel-good story emerged last week when it was revealed that an American biathlete had pulled out of the Olympics so that her twin sister could compete in her place.

Tracy Barnes made the U.S. team but chose to give her berth to sister, Lanny, after Lanny had missed the final qualifying events due to illness. Both competed at the 2006 Games, but only Lanny skied and shot at Whistler Olympic Park in 2010.

"She was very adamant about me going and she said, 'No, I want you to go.' It was a very emotional moment for both of us," Lanny told NBC's Today show.

Tracy had earned the fifth and final spot on the squad while Lanny was the sixth-ranked biathlete and next in line to go to Sochi.

"I've trained with her for 15 years right alongside her. I know how hard she works. I know how much she wants this," said Tracy.

"She's having a great year, and I think when you care enough about someone you're willing to make that kind of sacrifice."

IOC FORCES CHANGE TO GOALIE MASK

Jessie Vetter, goaltender for the American women's hockey team, had hoped to honour her country on her mask at the Olympics by including the opening line of the U.S. Constitution on the helmet's back plate. The IOC is having none of it.

Vetter was ordered to remove the phrase because IOC officials believe it violates Rule 51, which bans advertising, demonstration or propaganda on an athlete's equipment or uniform in competition.

This isn't the first time a U.S. goalie has run afoul of Rule 51 — during the 2010 Games, Ryan Miller was told to remove a tribute to his late cousin who died of leukemia, while Jonathan Quick had to cover up a "Support our troops" message on his mask.

But as Yahoo! Sports blog Puck Daddy points out, the IOC has no problem with national anthems being part of a uniform. Team Slovakia's jerseys will feature a horizontal pinstripe design, but if you look closely, the stripes are actually lyrics to the country's national anthem in Slovak.

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