SEOUL: Ticket sales in South Korea for the Winter Olympics it is hosting next year have gone far worse than hoped, organisers admitted Monday, with barely a quarter of the first-phase target taken up.
Infrastructure preparation for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games is well under way, but they take place in a country with a limited winter sports tradition and far from the core markets of Europe and North America.
Applications for the first phase of South Korean sales, on a lottery basis, opened on February 9, a year before the Games begin, and closed late last month.
A Pyeongchang Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (POCOG) official told AFP that they had aimed to sell 600,000 tickets.
But applications for only about 380,000 were received, and were concentrated on sports that South Korea typically excels in, such as speed skating and figure skating.
Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies were also in high demand.
Less popular disciplines such as cross country skiing and biathlon saw orders for fewer than 10 percent of available places.
In total, only 162,000 tickets were allocated in the distribution Monday – 27 percent of the 600,000 target.
The poor figure comes amid ongoing concerns about sales, with little evidence of a buzz building up around the Games.
Some 1.18 million tickets will be made available in total, with 30 percent going to overseas fans and sponsors through separate processes, and 70 percent allotted to South Koreans – making local attendance crucial to ensuring the grandstands are full.
But an opinion poll conducted by the sports ministry last month showed that only 35.6 percent of respondents were “interested” in the Games – and only 9.2 percent planned on going to Pyeongchang to watch.
Organisers blamed the sluggish sales on South Koreans’ tendency to be “traditionally late buyers.”
“I don’t think there is a country that sold out in the first round. We will actively promote the Games so the rest of the tickets will sell once we begin second round of sales,” POCOG spokeswoman Lee Ji-Hye told AFP.
Ticket sales to South Koreans will resume in September, when the venue layouts are finalised and all seats become available.
For local buyers, top-category seats for the opening ceremony and men’s ice hockey final cost 1,500,000 Korean won ($1,300) and 900,000 won ($800) respectively, but several disciplines ranging from biathlon to skeleton have tickets as cheap as 20,000 won. --AFP