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Ticketmaster exec sees all Olympic tickets sold

Every event in every venue for the Beijing Olympics will be sold, Ticketmaster's president for China forecast Friday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Every event in every venue for the Beijing Olympics will be sold, Ticketmaster's president for China forecast Friday.

"We predict that this will be the first Olympics that it's a 'sold out' Olympics," Jonathan Krane, whose company is an official ticketing provider and sponsor for August's games, said in an interview.

Krane was confident that all 6.8 million Olympics tickets would be sold, although he would not say exactly when.

"It's very close," said Krane, who became president of Ticketmaster China last year after it acquired Emma Entertainment, a China-based ticketing and promotions company he set up in 2004.

"Certain events are always sold out during the Olympics, but to have every event sold out, that's something that's very positive and it doesn't always happen," he added.

Ticket sales for past Olympics varied widely.

Some sports, like basketball, had been surefire sellers. Others, like modern pentathlon and team handball, less so.

"You have so many events and all these different huge stadiums, lots of different venues with a lot of different events, there's a lot of tickets," said Krane, who later in the day ran a leg of the Olympic torch relay in Shanghai.

The 2004 Athens Olympics sold only about two-thirds of 5.3 million tickets available. There were many empty seats.

The sales potential for China is strong due to its population of 1.3 billion people and the relative novelty of hosting a large international event. There's also a strong black market for tickets, though that problem is not unique to Beijing.

Earlier this month, Olympic organizers announced that all domestic-sale tickets for events in Beijing were completely sold out. Tickets for some events in other cities, such as soccer tournaments in Shanghai and equestrian events in Hong Kong, were still available.

Ticketmaster joined with China Sports Industry Group and the Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group to form Gehua Ticketmaster, which is handling the ticketing. Its online ticketing process got off to a rocky start last fall when the computer system meant to handle it crashed, forcing organizers to revert to a lottery system.

Organizers reported 27 million hits in a one-hour period during the last round of online domestic ticketing, but the system held up.

Overall, there will be about 9 million tickets for the Beijing Olympics, but a large chunk is set aside for the International Olympic Committee, sponsors, dignitaries and broadcasters — cutting the total available to the public.

After test events at some sites, the 7.2 million tickets originally planned for public sale was scaled back to 6.8 million. The Beijing organizing committee, known as BOCOG, said some tickets will likely be available at ticket booths around sports venues during the Games.

Olympic sponsorships have been a mixed bag for some companies, with a huge potential market of growing wealth countered by controversies over China's human rights policies, its handling of protests in Tibet and its dealings with Sudan. But Ticketmaster sees its involvement as "a huge success," Krane said.

"Having this look like the first sold out Olympics ever, it's a very positive experience for everybody," he said.

The Olympics sponsorship was the first major move into China for Ticketmaster, a unit of Internet conglomerate IAC that is due to be spun off from the company later this year.

West Hollywood, California-based Ticketmaster bought a controlling stake in Emma Entertainment in April 2007, hoping to tap into its niche in promoting international concert performers.

The Rolling Stones, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Kenny G are among the entertainers Emma has brought to China.

Given difficulties with music piracy, live touring has become a big part of the income for many entertainers, Krane noted.

"What China represents is a new market, an emerging market that they can develop," he said.