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No empty rows in Vancouver stadiums

Text by Gallagher Fenwick

Latest update : 2010-02-26

Official figures aren’t yet in but the organisers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver already know that they excelled in one discipline, filling seats.

Official overall attendance figures for this year's Winter Olympics - which draw to a close on Sunday - are not yet available, but Vancouver's organising committee VANOC is already relieved one of its worst nightmares never materialized: empty stands.

The rows of vacant seats around ice rinks at the last winter games in Turin seemed like a distant bad memory at the jam-packed Canada Hockey Place stadium where the home team gave Russia a beating, or at the Pacific Coliseum, home to the ice dancing competition. Both Canadians and fans from around the world have flocked in every night of the competition to fly their flags and root for their athletes.

“Its been Stanley Cup [Canadian national hockey league trophy] hockey crowds everywhere. Even at the cross country up on Whistler, every stand was packed with people. Pretty much all venues sold out for every event that Canadians were attending,” says Nathalie Lambert, a former speed skating gold medalist and VANOC spokesperson.

Organisers put up for sale approximately three quarters of an overall 1.6 million tickets, with the rest reserved for the media, athletes and their families and organisers, and they had no trouble finding buyers.

But Sébastien Théberge of VANOC explains that attendance, rather than ticket sales, was the real concern.

“For us it was most important that, for every ticket that was sold, the buyer would actually show up and be there and sit down throughout the entire event. And I think that we can say that we’re close to having reached that goal. It certainly wasn’t always perfect, with some people leaving before the event was over, but we managed to fill our stadiums. And even outside, in the streets, it's been overwhelming for a city that is generally not regarded as a party town.”

Maximising ticket sales

VANOC can also be credited with introducing a new ticket re-distribution system that originally caught many outside observers off guard.

It has become the first Olympic organiser to actively supervise and engage in the reselling tickets in order to generate more profits. Ticket resale is legal under certain conditions in British Columbia, the province where the Vancouver games are taking place.

Théberge is quick to dispel misunderstandings on this issue: “Anyone can do it, but as a reseller you can only add fees incurred from the purchasing process to the original price. We had to educate people about consumer protection, buying authentic, buying through our website where we auction tickets for instance. If people are willing to pay a premium, why not use it? It helps finance the Games.”

While unofficial resellers for one Olympic event that pitched Canada against the USA were offering tickets for up to 1,000 Canadian dollars (around 700 euros), VANOC says that its resold tickets were priced at 3,000 Canadian dollars (around 2,000 euros) on its official website.

That website has also made its own bit of Games history, with VANOC announcing that the site has recorded more traffic than any other previous Olympic website.
 

Date created : 2010-02-26

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