Great seats are still available. Thousands of them. Less than three weeks before the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics, organizers have admitted that 30 per cent of their ticket inventory remains unsold. Demand has been “traditional,” maintains Games chief Dmitry Chernyshenko, and sales are brisk on both the Internet and at kiosks. But after spending $51 billion, it appears Russia will be staging the most expensive—and perhaps least attended—Olympics ever.
The latest block of tickets went on sale just before Christmas, yet the official website remains chocked with deals. A pass to watch Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse slide for gold in women’s bobsled is just $48. Seats for Canada’s opening-round tilt with the U.S. in men’s hockey are $65. Passes to the gold-medal game in women’s hockey can be had for $212. In all, tickets to 73 medal events remain available. And that’s not counting the authorized fan “resale” site, which boasts 3,000 listings.
High travel costs and renewed fears of terrorism seem to be keeping away international tourists. And even with ticket prices as low as 500 rubles ($16)—cheaper than most Games souvenirs—Russians are balking at the long trip to the fringe of the federation. Authorities planned for 213,000 visitors, but have only issued 110,000 “spectators’ passports” to date. Vancouver, in case you’re keeping score, sold 1.5 million tickets in 2010.