Thousands of Games tickets remain unsold

15Jan

Tickets in all categories were available for most sports during the October 3-14 sporting showpiece, with places still on sale even for the opening and closing ceremonies and the 100-metre finals.

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About two million tickets were put on sale for the multi-sport Games, but rumours have long circulated in the capital that the response has been lacklustre amid delays in finalising the sales network.

Tickets ranging from 200 rupees (4.4 dollars) to 1,000 rupees were on sale for the 100-metre men’s final on October 7, normally the highlight of the athletics, while all prices were also on offer for the swimming finals.

“Sales have picked up a bit in the last 10 days,” a saleswoman in the official telesales service told AFP after confirming availability for all major events. Organisers have declined to release sales figures.

About 15 people waited in line at a bank in central Delhi selling tickets.

“We have got seats for India against Scotland in the hockey,” said Avneet Singh, a 24-year-old business analyst. “People have been put off by concern about safety, but I think it is going to be good fun.”

Another buyer, Shreya Prakash, 22, said that Indians might flock at the last-minute to events in which the host nations expects to pick up medals like wrestling and weightlifting.

“All the schools are on special holidays, and tickets are often quite cheap with free metro rides included. But there’s no interest in something like swimming,” he said.

The slow take-up of tickets could also reflect the absence of major crowd-pulling stars such as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt or marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe.

World 800m champion Caster Semenya pulled out of the Games on Tuesday because of a back injury, stripping the event of one of its few high-profile names in athletics.

The 19-year-old was the subject of controversial probe by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) into her gender that saw her sidelined for almost 11 months.

Team South Africa’s chief medical officer Shuaib Manjra said that Semenya underwent medical tests in Johannesburg on Tuesday and that scans had confirmed a back injury.

“Semenya also confirmed that she had been suffering serious lower back pain and had not been comfortable during her last few races,” said a statement by the South Africa Olympic Committee (SASCOC).

The Games, which open on Sunday, had teetered on the brink of collapse last week when some nations threatened to pull out amid worries about security, a bridge falling down, and the standard of accommodation and venues.

Problems plaguing the Games include an outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue fever, and doubts about transport, fire and evacuation procedures and medical services.

An army of manual workers has been drafted in to tackle filthy apartments and builders’ rubbish at the village, which is now vastly improved to the apparent satisfaction of participating countries.

A total of 1,800 athletes and officials were expected to have moved into village by the end of Wednesday, according to the Games press office.

Organisers have promised that all the accommodation will be finished by Wednesday and that full security is now in place to protect venues and participants.

The shambolic run-up to Commonwealth Games has dashed India’s hopes of showcasing itself as a dynamic emerging superpower and delivering an event to rival the spectacular Beijing Olympics, analysts say.

Instead, the country’s old image of inefficient bureaucracy, poor infrastructure, graft and squalor has once again been broadcast around the world, and local media have tagged the event India’s “Shame Games”.

“We believe tourism will not suffer much, since tourists who visit India have mostly factored in the India of yore, with snake charmers, and its dirt,” said Robinder Sachdev, president of Indian image consultancy Imagindia.

“But large-scale business and investment decisions in boardrooms will certainly be impacted by this colossal display of ineptitude,” said Sachdev.

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