March 2, 2016 / 2:21 PM / in 2 years

Fewer than half Rio Games tickets sold: organizers

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Fewer than half the tickets for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics have been sold with about five months to go until the first Games in South America, organizers said on Wednesday.

A total of 7.5 million tickets were issued for the Aug. 5-21 Games.

“About 47 percent of tickets have been sold,” Rio 2016 communications director Mario Andrada told reporters following a progress report by organizers to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Brazil has been struggling with political turmoil, an economic downturn and the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which have all hampered preparations for the Games awarded to Rio in 2009.

Andrada said ticket revenues had reached 74 percent -- or $194 million -- of the overall target, mainly due to more expensive passes to premium events and the opening ceremony having been sold already.

“The premium events and the opening ceremony are technically sold out,” he said.

Prices for the Rio tickets range between $10 and about $1,150 for the opening ceremony. More than half the tickets cost $17 or less. The cheapest tickets at London 2012 were 20 pounds, at the time about $32 and almost double that of Rio.

The 2012 Olympics in London reached its revenue target from ticket sales months before the start due to huge initial demand and more than a million applicants missed out.

London eventually sold 8.2 million out of the 8.5 million tickets issued for the Games.

“I have no concerns at all there,” IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters.

”This is a different culture. Brazilians do not buy tickets at such early stage as the British or the Germans.

“I have no doubt when the time comes these numbers will increase.”

Bach also backed Games organizers’ cost cuts in recent months, saying they were necessary given the crisis in Brazil.

“We all have recognized the very difficult situation the country is in and the reasons for this crisis is beyond the influence of the organizing committee,” he said.

Rio organizers said Brazil would have necessary doping legislation in place by a March 18 deadline set by the World Anti-Doping Agency to conform with global legislation, or risk leaving a $25 million testing lab in Rio unused.

A presidential decree will be issued on March 15, three days ahead of the deadline “to solve this problem”, Andrada said, because there was not sufficient time for a law to pass through parliament first.

Organizers are also increasing water testing at Guanabara Bay, where sailing and swimming events will be held, and the lagoon that will host rowing and canoeing events in an effort to monitor water pollution there, a major concern for athletes.

Water tests will be conducted at the two sites every two days from April onwards, with daily tests planned throughout the Olympics.

“What we are promising we are doing,” Games chief Carlos Nuzman told reporters.

“All venues are almost around 95 percent ready. The velodrome (for cycling) needs a little more but it will be ready... at the end of April.”

Editing by Ed Osmond

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