London 2012 organisers detail free ticket plans
London: London 2012 organisers highlighted a scheme offering free tickets to schoolchildren, the day some successful applicants in the paying public saw the first debits from their bank accounts.
Organisers said 125,000 tickets, including for showcase events involving sprint champion Usain Bolt, would be distributed to schools in the capital that had signed up to the `Get Set` program by December 16.
A further 50,000 tickets would be available to schools outside London and 25,000 distributed by the British Olympic and Paralympic associations and Sport England and to soldiers through Tickets for Troops.
London Mayor Boris Johnson told Reuters after a presentation at a North London school that two-thirds of the tickets available would be for Olympic events but opening and closing ceremonies were excluded.
It would be up to schools to decide how to allocate their tickets.
More free tickets could also be handed out closer to the event to avoid the empty seats seen at previous Olympics.
"We thought one in eight was the right number," Johnson said after playing table tennis with pupils in a breezy playground. "You don`t want to give away too many free tickets otherwise you devalue them.
"But there will be an opportunity, we think, for kids to get into events if they are under-subscribed and if the (Olympic) Park needs filling up on the day," he added.
"You remember in Beijing they had a problem with stadiums and venues that looked a bit empty, we`re obviously thinking of ways to make sure that doesn`t happen."
Johnson said the scheme was partly to reward Londoners for the extra tax burden of hosting the Games and rejected a suggestion that the free tickets would be `the dregs`, emphasising that they would be for a range of events.
"People have the chance, perhaps not a huge chance in each case, of seeing Usain Bolt run or whatever it happens to be," he added.
Organising committee (LOCOG) chairman Sebastian Coe said that even if some tickets were for heats rather than finals, there was nothing inferior about them.
"Usain Bolt will run in London on 10 or 11 occasions and two of those occasions will be finals. They (schoolchildren) will get a chance to see a good chunk of those events. That`s what Ticketshare is about," he told reporters.
Some 1.8 million people applied for more than 20 million tickets, with only 6.6 million on offer, in a six-week public window that closed last month.
More than half of the sessions were oversubscribed and went to a ballot, with organisers saying that the successful applicants would see money taken from their accounts from Monday.
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