bc-080910-olympic-clebration

Canadian athletes are shown celebrating at the nightly ceremony at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. Affordable seats for similar ceremonies will be prime attractions for spectators at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, as organizers work to ensure as many seats as possible are filled. ((CBC))

Thirty per cent of tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games will be made available to the public, a spokesman for the organizing committee said Tuesday.

The Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee aims to reduce the number of empty seats at all events with its new plan for ticket allocation and sales, which will begin Oct. 3, said Dave Cobb, VANOC's executive vice-president.

VANOC also plans to make available to the public 70 per cent of the estimated two million tickets for all the events, Cobb said.

When it comes to the highly coveted tickets for events such as the opening and closing ceremonies, a benchmark of 30 per cent of the tickets will be reserved for the public, he said.

The sight of large amounts of empty seats at the Beijing Olympics during certain events forced Vancouver to draw up its plan to handle ticket sales and allocation carefully, Cobb said.

"Whether it's the press or the IOC [International Olympic Committee] or the athletes, all the different groups, they get priority access to the arena," he said of the Beijing Games.

"What we found in Beijing is the sections set aside for those groups were much larger than they had to be, which led to empty seats and also kept a lot of seats out of the hands of the public who were desperate to see the events and weren't able to do so. We want to fix that."

There has been ongoing criticism of Olympic Games that too few tickets are allocated for the general public.

"It did become a big issue to the point where [IOC President] Jacques Rogge was speaking about it and I think the athletes clearly noticed," Cobb said.

"Given that we're the next organizing committee, probably the biggest or most asked question we got [is] what are we going to do to fill the seats."

The first phase of ticket sales will begin Oct. 3 and run through Nov. 7.  Remaining unsold tickets will be available for public sale in early 2009.