VANOC vows to make tickets affordable 

Olympic organizers say ticketing agent must be able to deal with same-day exchanges and purchases

By Clare Ogilvie

The 2010 Games may be three years away but people are already curious about when they can get tickets, and how much they will cost.

Olympic organizers said they are close to being able to tell people what they want to know this week at the release of the business plan for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

But they’re not quite there yet.

Dave Cobb, executive vice president of marketing revenue and communications for VANOC, said organizers hope that tickets will be available to the public just before the 2008 Beijing Summer Games in China.

And, he said, while some tickets will be priced at the upper end of the price scale Games organizers are committed to offering affordable ticket prices.

“There will be a range,” he said, adding that on average 70 per cent of the tickets at a venue will be available to the public.

There will also be many more seats available to the big-ticket items, such as hockey and figure skating, because the indoor Vancouver venues are much larger than at other Winter Games.

That means, said Cobb, that some scaling of prices can happen where the most expensive seats will subsidize the price of others further away from the action.

“Because we have so many seats we think we will have a nice range that will be affordable for most people to get to a game,” said Cobb.

Said John Furlong, VANOC’s CEO: “The goal of the whole project is to have ticket pricing that allows us to achieve the revenue but makes it possible for any person who wants to go to the Games to be able to afford to buy a ticket.”

The prices cannot be released until after the International Olympic Committee has given them the thumbs up.

VANOC is in discussions with three ticket service providers and one of the key elements to making a deal will be the ability of the company to put tickets into the hands of people who want to go to events that same date.

“…One of the primary things we are telling them is that they have to demonstrate to us that they have systems and software that will allow that last minute exchange of tickets. The technology is certainly there now,” said Cobb.

“But we are also talking to sponsors, the international federations, the National Olympic Committees, to make sure that, although they have to pay for their tickets, we want to make sure they order what they need, and that they don’t over-order and return tickets.”

That’s a lesson VANOC took from the Torino Games where venue seats were often empty because unused tickets could not be given to people who wanted to go.

“What we saw in Torino, where sometimes tickets were given or sold and the seat was not taken, is not good for anyone,” said Furlong.

“It is not good for the image of the Games, it is not good for the athletes, and that is just something that we are not going to let happen to us.”

VANOC has done considerable research into ticketing and according to the business plan expects to make $231.9 million in sales. That means they will have to sell 90 per cent of the seats overall.

Furlong believes it’s a reasonable target.

“We have gone and tested the marketplace… and asked what were Canadians going to do, who was planning to come and where would they come from, and we were quite frankly stunned (at the response) even this far out,” he said.

“Two things are driving this — there is a belief across the country that we are genuinely trying to share the Games with the county and the second thing is there is a belief that we are going to have the best team in the world by 2010 and people want to be there themselves to see it, so I think it looks very promising.”

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