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Paralympic tickets now on sale

Spectators expected to drive to Whistler then take shuttle to venue

Tickets to the 2010 Paralympics went on sale this week.

"Without question the Paralympic Winter Games are one of the most exceptional values in sports and entertainment," said Caley Denton, vice-president of ticketing and consumer marketing for the 2010 Vancouver Organizing Committee at a media briefing.

"The athletes are incredible, the stories are inspirational and when you combine those two things together it really just has this fantastic unique atmosphere," he said later.

"When you combine incredible performances with great stories it tends to be memorable and that is why people attend events, in the end it is the memories they take with them."

Approximately a quarter of a million tickets to the 64 medal competitions and ceremony events at the Paralympic Winter Games will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis at , with Visa the exclusive payment method. Thirty per cent are reserved for sponsors and officials.

It is not clear yet how transportation will be dealt with for ticket holders coming from the Lower Mainland.

Said Denton: "It would be some type of park and ride system and we would shuttle them out (to the venues)."

Whistler has approximately 4,600 municipal parking stalls. In all 11,000 spectators can attend events at Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan Valley and at the alpine events at Creekside.

During World Cup events this past winter, when thousands of spectators were allowed to drive into the Callaghan, parking chaos ensued. Getting out of the venue took upward of an hour.

The Paralympic Winter Games feature five sports: ice sledge hockey, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, wheelchair curling and biathlon.

Individual ticket prices to sport events start at $15. And VANOC is offering group ticket prices from most of the events, so if you have more than 20 people tickets are just $10.

"There's something indefinable about attending an event in person with friends and family that goes far beyond the memories of the results of the competition itself," said Denton.

More than 70 per cent per cent of all individual tickets are priced at $20 or less. Ticket prices for the spectacular Opening Ceremony at BC Place range from $30 to $175, compared with the Olympic opening-ceremony prices of $185 to $1,118 in the same building.

There is no ticket information yet about the closing ceremonies to the Paralympics, which will take place at Whistler's Celebration Plaza, as discussions around how that will work are still taking place.

"There has been lots of debate and work on the Whistler Celebration Plaza and they really haven't scoped the closing ceremonies yet to feel comfortable enough for tickets to go on sale," said Denton.

"(They are still working on) how many seats there are going to be, sitting or standing. So we thought rather than go on sale with something we are not sure about we will wait till later."

Anyone who bought Olympic tickets should use the same online account, and will only pay one delivery charge.

Tickets will remain on sale until just before the next round of Olympic ticket sales, which begins June 6.

In a media teleconference Denton said organizers don't expect an immediate sell-out of all Paralympic tickets because past Games have shown that many people don't buy them until shortly before the event.

But public demand for the tickets prompted VANOC to offer them for sale now, months ahead of the traditional Paralympic ticket sale timeline.

"We are seeing demand happen earlier than before and we expect to sell out on some of the events," said Denton.

"It is definitely earlier than before and that is just responding to (public input). Really it is a case where we are reacting to what we are seeing in the market."

Organizers are hoping to raise $260 million from the sale of Olympic and Paralympic tickets.

The first round of Olympic sales generated $94.7 million.

Residents of countries other than Canada should contact their respective National Paralympic Committee for information on purchasing tickets.