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Demand soars for Tokyo Olympic tickets

Want tickets for next year's Tokyo Olympics? Prepare to be let down.

Millions were disappointed starting Thursday when applicants in a ticket lottery for Japan residents began learning if they landed tickets.

The answer is going to be overwhelmingly - no.

The same will be true for residents outside Japan who could experience a similar dejection, with too much demand and too few tickets.

This was not the case at the last several games - the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro - when tickets were given away and volunteers were often summoned to fill empty seats for the television cameras. At times, there were too many empty seats to fill.

"This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time," Ken Hanscom, the chief operating officer of TicketManager, told The Associated Press in an interview.

His Los Angeles-based company does not buy or sell Olympic tickets, but manages tickets for corporate clients, several of which are major Olympic sponsors.

Hanscom said he follows ticketing patterns for every major event and estimates that 80 to 90 per cent of Japan residents who applied for tickets could get none.

"I'm interested in seeing what the reaction is and how the organising committee addresses this," Hanscom said. "It's good news for the demand, and bad news on the ticket side and the public."

Tokyo's organising committee was unable Thursday to say how many Japan residents got tickets, and it's unclear if or when it will disclose the overall numbers. Organisers will run a second ticketing phase where the odds will probably be even worse.

Japanese media immediately began reporting about disheartened fans. Organisers said the ticket website slowed to a crawl early in the day as more than one million people tried to learn their fate.

Organisers estimate there are 7.8 million tickets for all Olympic events, but 20 to 30 per cent of those are for distribution outside Japan where buyers could face the same problems and end up paying more.

Buyers outside Japan must get tickets from authorised ticket resellers, which would be available from Thursday.

Resellers are allowed to charge a 20 per cent handling fee on every ticket. They can also use a generous currency exchange rate, and often package desirable tickets with top hotels that charge way over the usual going rate during the Olympics.

Ticket prices for buyers in Japan vary greatly and are listed in the competition section on the organisers' website.

The opening ceremony on July 24 features the most expensive ticket at 300,000 yen ($A4000). The most expensive ticket for the closing ceremony is 220,000 yen ($A3000).

Even with the soaring demand, many venues could still wind up with hundreds of empty seats that are typically set aside for International Olympic Committee officials, corporate sponsors, and local dignitaries. Often they don't show up while angry fans line up outside without tickets.

"I expect there will be a problem in Tokyo," Hanscom said. "The industry figure is that 40 per cent of tickets that sponsors buy go in the trash," he said. He said the problem was acute for the Olympics and World Cup.

Even athletes could have a tough time landing many tickets for family members and friends.

All athletes can get two tickets for each session in which they compete. These tickets are sold by the organising committee to national Olympic committees for distribution. For swimming, it's only one. In addition, some national Olympic committees pass on added tickets to athletes.

© AP 2019

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