Paris Olympics chief defends ticket pricing after criticism

The head of the Paris Olympics organising committee defended the ticketing system for the 2024 Games, calling the first phase of sales a "success" on Thursday despite complaints about high prices.

Around 3.25 million tickets have been sold over the last month, around a third of the total, but the release has been overshadowed by criticism of the costs.

"It's been a success this first phase, even if we understand the criticism and the frustration of some people who were not satisfied," Tony Estanguet told reporters almost 500 days from the start of the Games.

He defended the strategy of offering a limited number of seats -- one million -- priced at 24 euros ($25), with the majority in a middle category of around 100 euros or lower.

A poll published at the weekend found that around four out of five French people thought that tickets were too expensive.

Part of the problem in the first phase was that fans were obliged to buy tickets for at least three different sports, often putting the bill at 300 euros or more per person, or well over a thousand euros for a family of four.

The second phase, with sales starting from May 11, will enable buyers to take single tickets, including for some of the highlights including the opening ceremony and the athletics finals.

"This second phase will be an exceptional opportunity for people to buy experiences that will be probably once in a lifetime," Estanguet, a former French canoeing champion and triple Olympic gold medallist, added.

The prices are unlikely to mollify critics, however.

A ticket for the athletics will start at 125 euros and stretch to 980 euros. The cheapest beach volleyball seat will cost 100 euros, while places for the basketball finals range from 90 to 980 euros.

Seventy thousand places will go on sale for the hugely ambitious opening ceremony which will see national sporting delegations sail down the river Seine in an open-air celebration in the heart of the City of Light.

"It will be expensive because it will be unique. It will be very spectacular in this iconic city," Estanguet said.

The tickets on sale, with a top price of 2,700 euros, will be for seats on the bank of the river, offering an unrestricted view of proceedings.

- In line with 2012 -

Another 400,000-500,000 free passes will be granted to people wanting to witness the ceremony once the complicated security arrangements for the event have been worked out by French authorities.

The Paris organisers say that their pricing is in line with the 2012 London Olympics once inflation is taken into account. Tokyo 2020 was more expensive, although spectators were eventually banned due to stringent Covid restrictions, while the 2016 edition in Rio de Janiero was cheaper, according to their analysis.

Sports fans hoping to land one of the 1.5 million tickets on sale in the second phase will need to sign up to a lottery system between March 15-April 20.

The French government has tasked Paris organisers with making sure the games are self-financing, making private sponsorship deals and ticketing key sources of revenue in the absence of major public backing.

"It's key for us to optimize this ticketing program. On the other side, we also want and we have a lot of ambition in terms of having full stadiums and a fantastic atmosphere," Estanguet explained.