Tokyo Olympics tickets running out for Japanese amid high demand

Millions of applicants in ticket lottery for Japan residents disappointed to learn they have missed out on tickets.

    People shop at a store selling Olympic souvenirs in Tokyo [Jae C Hong/AP Photo]
    People shop at a store selling Olympic souvenirs in Tokyo [Jae C Hong/AP Photo]

    Millions of Japanese are feeling let down as tickets for next year's Tokyo Olympics have already become difficult to get.

    A majority of applicants in a ticket lottery - exclusive for Japan residents - on Thursday learned they had failed to get a ticket. Residents outside Japan could experience similar disappointment since there is too much demand and too few tickets.

    This was not the case at the last several games - the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro - when tickets were given away and volunteers were often summoned to fill empty seats for the television cameras. At times, there were too many empty seats to fill.

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    "This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time," Ken Hanscom, the chief operating officer of Ticket Manager, told The Associated Press.

    His Los Angeles-based company does not buy or sell Olympic tickets, but manages tickets for corporate clients, several of which are major Olympic sponsors.

    Tokyo organisers say 7.5 million residents of Japan registered to apply for tickets through the lottery system, with an estimated 70-85 million individual ticket requests - 10 times more than what is available. 

    While there are nearly 7.8 million tickets available for all Olympic events, 20-30 percent of those are for distribution outside Japan where buyers could face the same problems and end up paying more.

    Hanscom said he follows ticketing patterns for every major event and estimates that 80-90 percent of Japan residents who applied for tickets could get nothing.

    "I'm interested in seeing what the reaction is and how the organising committee addresses this," Hanscom said. "It's good news for the demand, and bad news on the ticket side and the public."

    Disheartened fans

    Tokyo's organising committee was unable to say how many Japan residents got tickets, and it is unclear if - or when - it will disclose the overall numbers. Organisers will run a second ticketing phase where the odds will probably be even worse.

    Japanese media immediately began reporting about disheartened fans. Organisers said the ticket website slowed to a crawl early in the day as more than a million people tried to learn their fate. 

    The millions who failed received this email message from Tokyo organisers: "Thank you for your interest in purchasing Tokyo 2020 tickets. The demand for tickets was incredibly high, and unfortunately, you were not awarded any of the tickets you requested in the lottery."

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    Ticket prices for buyers in Japan vary and are listed in the competition section on the organisers' website. The opening ceremony on July 24 features the most expensive ticket - 300,000 yen ($2,700). The most expensive ticket for the closing ceremony is 220,000 yen ($2,000).

    Even with the soaring demand, many venues could still wind up with hundreds of empty seats that are typically set aside for International Olympic Committee officials, corporate sponsors, and local dignitaries. Often they do not show up while angry fans line up outside without tickets.

    "I expect there will be a problem in Tokyo," Hanscom said. "The industry figure is that 40 percent of tickets that sponsors buy go in the trash," he said.

    Local Japanese Olympic sponsors have paid over $3bn in sponsorship fees, and are also sure to get a slice of tickets before they hit the public market.

    SOURCE: AP news agency