Late surge in Olympics ticket sales


Thousands of Greeks were queueing for hours today to buy tickets for the Olympics after organisers called for a boost in sales which initially had lagged.

With a record in daily sales broken every day in the past week, organisers were satisfied and surprised with the turnout.

"We certainly did not expect this. The response is just magnificent," a senior Games official said. "We are optimistic but we have to wait for the end of this coming week."

Until early last week organisers had sold less than half of the 5.2 million tickets for the Games, but with over 150,000 sold in three days, they were confident they would meet their target of 3.4 million before the Olympics start.

Concerns over previously slow ticket sales were also dismissed by International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.

"The sales are going up day by day," he told a news conference on Sunday. "I am not concerned. All my Greek friends tell me that there is a tradition in this country to buy tickets at the last minute."

The opening and closing ceremonies as well as most finals are sold out but tickets remain for most qualifying rounds.

Forecasts that Greece, because of its geographic location and historic link to the Games, would sell more tickets than Sydney and more quickly, were initially proved wrong.

But with the venues ready in time after years of speculation and the biggest ever peacetime security operation in Europe in place, organisers seem to have finally turned the corner.