Revenue / 12.01.17
Ticket Sales for Winter Olympics Aren’t Going for the Gold Quite Yet
With less than three months to go before the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, ticket sales are not winning any medals, and some officials are worried that TV broadcasts worldwide will show largely empty arenas and venues during some events. As of late October 2017, 57 percent of the approximately 320,000 tickets for the Games reserved for international attendees had been sold. However, almost 80 percent of the 750,000 tickets allocated to South Koreans were still available.
This is not a new phenomenon. A few months prior to last summer's Rio Olympics, over 50 percent of the 7.5 million tickets remained unsold. This has spawned a new tradition in some circles of blaming the host country's people for being last-minute shoppers. The New York Times recently quoted Nancy Park, a spokeswoman for the group that is responsible for organizing the Pyeongchang Games, who said, "Koreans are known to be last-minute buyers."
Her remarks were reminiscent of those of International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who said last year when Rio ticket sales were sluggish: "Brazilians, they do not buy tickets at such an early stage as the British or the Germans."
The numbers for the Winter Paralympic Games, which will also take place in Pyeongchang from March 9 to March 18, aren’t any better. The most recent figures show that just over 8,900 total tickets had been sold. Jo Seoung-lae of South Korea's ruling Democratic Party has expressed embarrassment, telling the Inside the Games website, "The Paralympic Games should be promoted actively like the Olympic Games."
Clearly, the time is coming for the Pyeongchang organizing committee to up their game with more active promotions. Park and other committee members noted that many promotional activities have only recently begun. For instance, it was just on Oct. 31 that the Pyeongchang organizers received the Olympic flame in a ceremony that initiated a 100-day countdown to the start of the Games. After leaving Greece, the torch was scheduled to visit 17 cities and provinces prior to the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9.
Help is expected to come from regional government offices, which have reportedly been allocating funds to buy blocks of tickets. Their plan is to distribute them to schools (which will be on winter break in February), disadvantaged families and other groups across the country. Some South Korean companies are also expected to buy blocks of tickets for their employees.
At issue, though, might be factors beyond the organizers' control. For instance, no one knows whether the recent political turmoil inside South Korea and the escalation of tensions with North Korea might be holding back ticket sales. Others are questioning whether South Koreans even care enough about winter sports like curling and skiing to travel to a smallish town about an hour and a half away from Seoul.
According to USA Today, the numbers have been improving of late. As of Nov. 13, the committee sold 34 percent of its overall allotment. "We expect by the end of [November], it will reach more than 50 percent to 60 percent, which is not so bad," Pyeongchang organizing committee President and CEO Lee Hee-beom told USA Today Sports.
The best help may actually come from the good ol' U.S. of A. If ticket sales do not pick up in the next couple of months, America does have a fairly large military base in Seoul. Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, told the New York Times, "That's 20,000 or 30,000 people. We'd love to try to get some of them into the seats."
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Tags: Sports , Olympics