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Saturday, August 5, 2000
Two million seats left for Sydney Games

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- With more than 2.1 million tickets unsold just six weeks before the Sydney Olympics, organizers are counting on a TV advertising blitz to encourage a last-minute buying spree.

 Tickets remain available for sports such as track and field, gymnastics, diving and basketball. About 9,000 tickets to the closing ceremony also are still for sale, though the opening ceremony is sold out.

 There are more than 9 million tickets for the Sydney Games, an Olympic record. There has never been a sellout of all events at an Olympics.

 "Never underestimate the ability of the Australian public to act at the last moment," John O'Neill, ticketing communications manager for the Sydney Games, said Saturday. "We feel pretty confident we can achieve the task of selling the bulk of the tickets."

 All swimming events for the Sydney Games are sold out. Four track and field sessions are sellouts, as are some basketball games and the gold-medal contests in baseball, softball, tennis, field hockey and rowing.

 Of the 2,170,500 tickets left as of Friday, nearly a quarter are for early-round soccer matches in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra. That leaves about 1.65 million tickets for events in Sydney.

 O'Neill said an advertising campaign featuring ordinary Australians who attended earlier Olympics will hit TV screens starting Sunday night. One ad features John Major, 62, who tells viewers he's been talking about his visit to the 1956 Melbourne Games for the past four decades.

 Another commercial features a woman who went to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and describes it as a great party, reminding Sydneysiders not to miss the biggest party of their lives.

 The announcement of the last-minute push came as officials prepared to begin door-to-door delivery of tickets around Sydney. More than 144,000 packets of tickets will be brought to homes around the city on Sunday, the first of five Sundays on which the deliveries will be made.

 Officials hope ticket sales the next six weeks will raise up to $87 million for the Sydney Olympics and erase the prospect of large banks of empty seats at some events.

 There are unsold seats in all price categories for gold-medal sessions in sports such as track and field, gymnastics, diving and basketball. The remaining tickets are priced from $6 for modern pentathlon finals to $265 for track and field finals on the last Saturday of the games.

 O'Neill said sales were slowed by controversies last year involving the allocation of premium tickets. The recent introduction of a new national goods and services tax also hurt sales.

 Plus, O'Neill pointed out, June and July are the heart of the Australian winter -- a time when many people found it hard to get excited about buying tickets to the Summer Games.

 "We'll be emphasizing over the next few weeks the fact that time is absolutely running out right now," he said. "And, at the same time, we have to re-educate people about the range of tickets that are available."
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