It's not too late to go Got Olympic fever? Turn off TV

Atlanta has room, tickets left

Atlanta Olympics

July 25, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- You have sat by your television watching the Dream Team and Kerri Strug. You now understand the intricacies of beach volleyball. You suddenly have this craving to watch field hockey at 2 in the morning.

You ask yourself: Do I get in a car, or hop on a plane, do I dare venture to the Centennial Summer Olympics without tickets and a hotel reservation?

The experts in all of this have a ready answer: Just do it.

"Come on down," says Bill Crane, of Atlanta's Chamber of Commerce. "We've got tickets. We've got rooms. We'll take care of you."

The city may look packed and the athletic venues may be crammed with fans from around the world, but there is still room for those last-minute spectators who just have to get to the Games.

The major airlines report there are available seats on flights to Atlanta, although getting out the day after the Games' Aug. 4 close will be difficult. Round-trip flights can be had for as low as $246 from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Rental car companies at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport also are taking reservations on a day-by-day basis.

The forecast on hotels: jammed in the metropolitan Atlanta region tomorrow through Sunday night, but openings within a 90-minute drive of the city.

"You can get a room, an hour out of town," says Robert King, president and CEO of the Georgia Hospitality and Travel Association. "During the week, there are also rooms on the perimeter of the city; that would require a car so that you can get to a park-and-ride lot or a train station. The majority of the rooms are $100 a night, or less. These are limited service properties, scattered about."

The rooms are available because some were released by local organizers and others simply never got booked. Although supply has outstripped demand, organizers stress that visitors should call ahead to reserve rooms and rental cars.

Restaurants also are begging for business, as fans bypass gourmet meals for table tennis.

But the big question remains: What about tickets?

Well, there are two routes to go: official and unofficial.

Those willing to stand in lines, or fight the phones, still can pick up tickets through the local organizing committee, which has sold more than 8.3 million of 11 million available seats for the various venues around the country.

"Tickets can be purchased for any venue, at any venue," says Jack Tyson, director of ticket sales for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. "Ticket availability is changing every day because we have a formal redistribution system with sponsors and national Olympic committees who are returning seats."

So, what does this mean for the fans? At the box offices, there are still seats for such sports as baseball, women's basketball, boxing, team handball, field hockey, tennis and weightlifting. Closing ceremony tickets at up to $636 also were on the market yesterday.

And even though virtually all the track and field sessions are sold out, Tyson says tickets will come back on the market.

"I'm sure there will be plenty of track and field around next week," he says.

OK, that's the official route. But there's a quicker path to getting into the hot events: Check the scalpers, who are running a lively nTC market by the Omni, where hundreds of fans congregate for seats.

Rafeeq from Philadelphia is dealing in boxing, gymnastics and Dream Team basketball. Business is good, but he's selling tickets at face value.

"On the whole, I'd rather be at Camden Yards," he says. "I'm making money, but, man, you've got to work all day. Nine in the morning to 12 at night. The police aren't doing anything. There are just too many scalpers. Lock up 10, and another 20 come out. Man, there are scalpers around here from all over the world. I even saw a Russian selling tickets."

There are plenty of takers. Hundreds of dollars exchange hands in an instant.

"People will come down and shop like anywhere else," says Maurice from Cleveland, who unloads 12 boxing tickets at $101 each. "I'll make enough money this week to pay for two quarter semesters at Ohio State. I've got to pay my way through school. Loans, scholarships and scalping. Call it creative financing."

The market is working. George Davis of Columbia, Md., brought his 9-year-old daughter Lindsay to the Games on what was supposed to be a day trip. But after watching Strug's remarkable vault in Tuesday night's women's gymnastics team final, he decided to switch his airline ticket and stay another day.

He got a hotel room near the airport for $110. He picked up $5 seats for a baseball game. And he paid $75 each for two men's gymnastics tickets with a face value of $212 each.

"I expected the worst," he says. "And it has been the best. If the timing is right and you have the money, you can see anything."

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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