SEARCH 2000 Games

Sunday, October 1, 2000
Sydney stalls ticket sales

By TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

 SYDNEY - It couldn't get any worse for Canadian track and field than missing the medals for the first time since the 1972 Munich Olympics, right?


 You could call a press conference to honour your successful athletes and have only one writer show up.

 And that writer - me - would be there mostly to get reaction to the news that ticket sales for next year's World Championships In Athletics, which had been selling like hot cakes, had stopped selling almost entirely as a result of what happened to the Canadian track team here and the drug stories which took the focus off the world athletes once again.

 Twenty-four per cent in 24 hours.

 Thirty-three per cent in one week.

 Forty-one and a half per cent (and 50 percent of budget) in one month.

 They were going great. Then the OIympics began.

 In the Olympic month of September Edmonton 2001 sold the grand total of three and a half per cent. Suddenly, mostly because of that Canadian track team, what was looking like a tough ticket has become a tough sell. Suddenly they're stalled at 45 per cent.

 "I know Jack Agrios and the Edmonton people were hoping these Olympics would be a spike for them in ticket sales.'' said Ted Thresher, the beleaguered Athletics Canada boss whose job is hanging by a thread after what happened here.

 "I'm surprised to hear that,'' he said of the numbers. "Maybe people spent the month watching the Olympics on TV and will go back to buying the tickets now. I'm confident we'll have a sellout next summer in Edmonton. People will put the event first. And 45 per cent ticket sales in two months, no matter what has happened, is brilliant.''


 Edmonton 2001 chairman Jack Agrios said he remains "totally pleased - we're way ahead of where anybody has been before. Everybody is amazed. Forty-five per cent is a fantastic number. When we sell that final ticket this is going to be a terrific story.''

 Imagine the story if Edmonton 2001 had stuck with their original plan of putting tickets on sale at the start of the Sydney Olympics instead of the one-year-to-go date of Aug. 3.

 At the press conference, which was attended by one more athlete than media person (Ted Katz of CBC radio was also there), Ladonna Antoine of Regina, who went from being ranked 50th in the world to a personal best and 11th at the Olympics in the 400 metres, said she's hoping an amazing scene like the 110,000 who watched her make her move into world contention, Kevin Sullivan's fifth place in the 1,500 metres and Jason Tunks' sixth place in the discus, would happen at home.

 "Australia cheering on the Australians here was amazing,'' she said.

 "Next year we want to perform well. We want to see medals and people in the finals and to hear our national anthem,'' she said.

 "After what happened here, I can't wait to get to the Worlds in Edmonton next year.''

 Tunks said he's getting closer and closer to the podium.

 "I was 33rd at the Olympics in 1976 and sixth this year. It proves to me what I can do next. Most of the guys in discus are 10 years older than me ...''

 Sullivan suggested it is depressing to think that Canadians were too busy being upset at what was happening with the spring and relay guys to take much notice of what happened to the three people Athletics Canada had brought to their non-event.


 The rest of the sad presser was Athletics Canada getting in their two bits' worth, a day late and a dollar short, on the Canadian storyline of these Games, which is basically, we're getting what we paid for and that we suffer from comparisons to Australia, the nation which stole our sports system, perfected it and then threw millions more at it for Sydney 2000 while Canada got rid of our program and then turned off the tap.

 "Australia spends $280 million. Canada spends $70 million,'' said Thresher.

 "We won 22 medals in Atlanta based on spending during an earlier period. It has to be a 20-year program. Australia got the wake-up call when they didn't win a gold medal at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 either and set out to fix their program.''

 Sullivan said it's been broke for years and he's delighted with all the talk of finally fixing it.

 "The whole system is based too much on politics, bureaucrazy and administration. It's not enough about the athletes. The most important part should be about the athletes,'' he said.

 Money spent now isn't going to make a difference for next year, however.

 Despite Sullivan, Tunks, Mark Boswell, Antoine and a couple of others, Edmonton 2001 tickets and Canadian flags aren't selling well right now.
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