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Tokyo Olympics' organizers offer cheap tickets to appeal to younger generations

Many seats are seen vacant at the Deodoro Stadium in Rio de Janeiro during the women's rugby event of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics on Aug. 6, 2016. (Mainichi/Hiroyuki Miura)

TOKYO -- Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will sell low-priced tickets in a bid to put the brakes on the declining popularity of sports among younger generations.

However, since there is a wide gap in the popularity of various sports, how to fill vacant seats for less appealing events will pose a challenge. Moreover, the organizing committee is poised to join hands with the government in preventing scalping of tickets to the Tokyo Games.

The organizing committee began on May 9 to accept applications for lotteries for tickets to the Tokyo Olympics. Roughly half of some 7.8 million tickets will be sold at discounted prices of up to 8,000 yen each. In particular, two types of 2,020-yen tickets targeting younger generations are drawing attention.

One of these two categories will be sold on condition that buyers be accompanied by children aged 12 or younger, people aged at least 60 or those with disabilities. These tickets are expected to be sold mainly for less popular preliminary rounds in which many seats are feared to remain vacant. However, these tickets also include those for the opening ceremony and even for preliminaries of popular events such as basketball and swimming. Regular tickets for the basketball and swimming preliminary rounds will be sold for at least 5,800 yen, and those for the opening ceremony for 12,000 yen.

The other type of cheap tickets are aimed at local governments or schools, mainly those in areas hosting venues for the games and those situated in areas affected by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunamis, that are supposed to buy the tickets to sell to schoolchildren. Organizers will sell at least 1 million tickets of this kind, including those for the Paralympics, about three times the number of similar tickets for the 2012 London Games and more than 10 times that for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Organizers are selling discount tickets targeting schoolchildren against a backdrop of sports' sagging popularity among younger generations because their hobbies are diversifying. The move is an extension of the International Olympic Committee's strategy of propping up the popularity of the Olympics by adding skateboarding, sports climbing, surfing and 3x3 basketball as official Olympic events starting with the 2020 Games.

The strategy will embody the opinion that younger generations should be given opportunities to experience the excitement of the games, which was voiced during a meeting of the organizing committee's panel of experts.

However, ticket sales are an important source of revenue for the organizing committee, which estimates that it will earn 82 billion yen from their sales, accounting for approximately 15% of its expected income.

To make up for a decline in income as a result of selling heavily discounted tickets, organizers will also sell special high-priced tickets targeting wealthy people that include meals at lounges within the venues for the games.

As for tickets for schoolchildren, it is difficult to meet requests for dates, venues and events they want to view. Therefore, organizers will assign tickets to schoolchildren while taking applicants' access to venues of various events into consideration. Moreover, securing hotel rooms for schoolchildren to view the Olympics will also pose a challenge.

"Since we host many foreign athletes for preliminary camps, we'd like as many children as possible to view the games. But it's difficult to secure rooms at accommodation facilities," said an official of the Fukuoka Prefectural Government.

(Japanese original by Tadashi Murakami and Akira Matsumoto, Sports News Department)

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