Sochi: Winter Olympics Ticketing Problems Draw Fans' Angst

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

The organizers report ticket sales as "above expectations" but many fans are left out in the cold as seats remain empty.

MOSCOW -- Fans in Sochi are having a hard time getting tickets for Olympic events due to inefficient ticket sales operations, while many seats remain empty or are filled with volunteers.

Only a handful of ticket sales offices, one of which is in Moscow and a few more in Sochi, have been opened. However, they don't operate at full capacity due to personnel shortages, with huge crowds of fans lining up in hopes of buying tickets, the Russian online newspaper reported.

According to the report, some of the staff hired to man ticket sales counters have left out of dissatisfaction with working conditions.

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Major media, however, have not reported on the problem, which is not typical of major sports and entertainment events held in Russia.

So far, most events of that kind have been held in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where ticket sales systems are well organized. But Sochi has not hosted any top-level sports or entertainment events before.

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Tickets for events most popular among Russian fans, such as biathlon and ice hockey, have been sold out and are being offered by resellers at exorbitant prices. For instance, tickets for a hockey game between the U.S. and Russian squads at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Saturday are available at between $340 and $1,140.

Meanwhile, the organizers still are claiming that ticket sales have been successful. Dmitry Perlin, head of the Olympics' ticketing department, was quoted by the wire service R-Sport as saying that 925,000 tickets to Olympic events had been sold, which is "above expectations."

However, he wouldn't say how many tickets in total were supposed to go on sale. Earlier this week, organizers admitted that they do invite volunteers to fill empty rows of seats at less popular events.