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ON A BUDGET

Olympics 2002: Early Birds Get Tickets

October 29, 2000|ARTHUR FROMMER

Still reeling from two weeks of TV images from Sydney, Australia, Americans may be taking a break from talk of the Olympics. But if you're an avid sports fan, you'll pay attention to the job of getting tickets to the next round of the global event, scheduled for Salt Lake City in winter 2002.

In Salt Lake City, as in Sydney, the early bird gets the gold. The Mormon capital has put its Winter Olympics tickets on sale, and the sooner you request yours, the cheaper they'll be. Once the initial allotment is sold out, would-be spectators will need to pay more to get into events--if they can get into the events they want at all.

Your best chance for an Olympic bargain will come from choosing an event that's not wildly popular, such as short-track speed skating or the Nordic combined, avoiding the finals of most competitions and selecting seats that aren't at the finish line. You'll still have a memorable Olympics experience, and you might pay as little as $35 (for figure skating, snowboarding, curling and the luge), $25 (for the biathlon and the Nordic combined) or even $20 (for short-track speed skating).

Forget attending the figure-skating finals ($400 a seat) or the opening and closing ceremonies (as much as $800).

The Olympic Committee is selling tickets at http://www.slc2002.org and http://www.tickets.com/olympics/initial.html, and there's plenty of helpful documentation online. You can also call (800) TICKETS and plow through the information by ear.

Organizers have created a range of ticket packages--there are 75 versions that bundle about six events each, including one free medals ceremony--and hotel packages, but they're mostly overpriced and approach the $1,000 range. If you want to save money, piece together your own Olympic memories--and work on your own lodging as soon as possible.

The better housing bargains will be farther from the city, so your options are limited only by how far you're willing to drive. Moab, anyone?

After you go online and download the informational packet, you can get an early-booking form from the Web site. Organizers will accept only one per household, and they don't give refunds, so don't mess up. After your request is received, it will be processed in its own sweet time. You'll receive a confirmation in a few months, but your tickets won't arrive until a month before the Games, which means you'll have to keep the Olympics organizers apprised if you move.

The deadline for the early round of ticket purchasing is Dec. 12, but that doesn't mean you should wait until Dec. 11 to postmark your request; it's processed on a first-come, first-served basis. After this initial flight of tickets is gone, obtaining seats will be more complicated, involving waiting lists, random selections and--most nefarious of all--scalpers. So if you ever wanted to get close to those Olympic rings, start jumping through some hoops now.

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