'So expensive' - Paris Olympics ticket prices mar image of Games for all
Athletes have joined the clamour of criticism at the high cost of tickets for the 2024 Paris Olympics, decried as undermining organisers' promises of a Games accessible to all.
Phase two of sales got underway on May 11, with nearly 1.5 million individual tickets available, after over three million were sold as multi-event packs during phase one.
Sales have been swift with two thirds of the latest batch snapped up on the first day, organisers said.
Tickets for the men's judo heavyweight final, in which France's triple Olympic gold medallist Teddy Riner is expected to compete, sold out in two hours.
"Frankly it started very strong, almost too much so. It's proof of the huge enthusiasm," the organising committee said.
But just as during phase one, there were vocal protests, particularly on social media, that the exorbitant prices conflicted with the "Games for all" promised by Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet.
"We expected the criticism, we were warned that the sales periods were a difficult time. But we underestimated the scale," conceded Estanguet, a former three-time Olympic canoeing champion.
"With four million registered in the draw for 1.5 million tickets on sale, we knew that some people would be disappointed."
Of the promised one million seats at 24 euros ($26), the lowest price for next year's Olympics, nearly 150,000 went up for sale in phase two.
But as these tickets were the first to go, potential buyers quickly found themselves facing much higher prices.
Three days after the launch of the second phase, sports fans were offered tickets at 690 euros and even 980 euros for athletics semi-finals, and as high as 2,700 euros for the opening ceremony.
- 'Financial elite' -
"The prices of the Olympic Games tickets... What a big joke," tweeted one disappointed buyer @BenjiTjumper, while @KimKy_Love wrote: "Excuse me Paris-2024 but the opening ceremony at 2 times the minimum wage (!!), it's a joke?"
Athletes were also unhappy with the prices.
Belgian Nafissatou Thiam, a two-time Olympic heptathlon champion, told Belgian media DH: "I'm not even sure that my family will be able to come to see me, it's so expensive."
French judoka Amandine Buchard, a world bronze medallist, slammed organisers on Twitter: "Olympic Games accessible to all, you said... In fact, you have to take out a bank loan so that families and loved ones can have the chance to come and see us… Well at least if by then there are still tickets."
"How can we put such high prices for our sport?" French runner Jimmy Gressier wrote on Instagram.
French Sports Minster Amelie Oudea-Castera defended the pricing policy, telling parliament on May 16 ticket prices were lower than at previous Olympics.
She did admit though that: "The accessible tickets, at 24 euros, exist but they go too quickly."
For sports policy expert David Roizen, in the money-spinning world of modern sports, a Games for all "doesn't exist".
"The Champions League final, the Olympics, are events reserved for a financial elite," Roizen told AFP.
"It is a mistake to have raised the prospect of a Games for all."