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Athens Olympic Committee Says Ticket Sales Have Reached Original Goal - 2004-08-25

Crowds at Olympic venues have grown in the second week of games in Athens. VOA's Rebecca Ward says it's not as easy to make your way through the now crowded park and trains as it was last week.

For the first time since the Olympics began, there was standing room only on the train to and from the Irini station, at the entrance to the Olympic Park.

Apparently Greeks, as well as foreign visitors to the games, were waiting for track and field, also known as athletics, to begin. Tuesday, the Athens Olympic committee announced ticket sales hit their original sales goal of $3.4 million. They had lowered expectations at the beginning of the games because of sluggish ticket sales. This woman from the U.S. state of Florida just arrived today with her husband for one special track and field event - her daughter's.

?Rose Richmond. She jumps in the long jump,? the woman said.

And are they happy to be here?

?Very excited, very excited. This is our first day here and we're just trying to find our way around a little. So we're just trying to go to the Olympic Village now to see her,? she added.

On a visit to Olympic Park Tuesday, the grounds were so crowded, it was impossible to walk a straight line through the Agora, the marketplace. That's quite a change from the same time last week, when there was no line heading into the Olympics superstore. Now, there are dozens - perhaps as many as 100 - waiting in line to purchase shirts, pins, hats and various other official Olympics merchandise.

Despite an increase in ticket sales and what is turning out to be a successful Olympics for Athens, the cost of hosting the games could top $8.5 billion, according to Deputy Finance Minister Petros Doukas. That's about $3 billion above original projections and due, in part, to the massive security operation and cost overruns in the scramble to finish the venues on time.