American fans lacking in number at Sochi Games

By: Dakota Crawford / BSU at the Games
February 24, 2014 Updated: February 24, 2014 at 12:58 pm
photo - Several Russians stand in line for entrance into the souvenir store located in the Olympic Park. BSU at the Games/Rebekah Floyd
Several Russians stand in line for entrance into the souvenir store located in the Olympic Park. BSU at the Games/Rebekah Floyd 

In building his collection of 100,000 Olympic trading pins, Daniel Presburger has learned a few things.

He’s learned that sometimes, chasing an athlete down the subway for a rare pin is worth wasting an Olympic ticket. And the Los Angeles native has nearly memorized the flow of negative reporting he says surfaces every two years.

“The media cries wolf. They do it at every Olympics,” he said. “I’ve learned to ignore it.”

Presburger said news of overpriced hotels and threats of terror don’t faze him. News surrounding the Sochi 2014 Games seems to have resonated with more than a handful of American fans, though.

He and other Olympic attendees say there is a noticeable lack of fans decked out in Team USA gear.

“The U.S. media scared away a lot of people,” said Michael Jakobs, who is attending his 18th Olympic Games. “Plus, it’s not that easy to get here.”

Before making the trip to Sochi, fans from the United States were required to purchase at least one ticket through CoSport-–the Authorized Ticket Reseller for the United States Olympic Committee.

CoSport sells both individual and group tickets to events ranging from the Olympic Opening Ceremonies to curling. Though just 31 of 70 events with tickets on the website were sold out as of Feb. 11.

Jakobs said high ticket prices contributed to the smaller crowds early on, but he bet on sales picking up as the Olympics continued.

“Ticket prices are so high,” He said. “It’s gradually built up over the years, but it’s no higher here than anywhere else.”

A ticket to speed skating finals ran for about $250 through CoSport. For figure skating finals, $724 dollars.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 10, that close to 90 percent of event tickets had been sold. Many volunteers have expressed doubts in that number, but even the pin-collecting community said then it was too early to accurately judge attendance.

Sochi has gained ground on past Winter Olympics for ticket sales. Officials announced that one million event tickets had been sold, surpassing the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics.

Carol Brown, a Scotland native attending the Games to see biathlon, said she’s been to two events, both of which were “well attended.”

“We’re huge biathlon fans,” Brown said. “We usually go to a biathlon in the winter, one of the World Cup events, so it makes sense to come here.”

She attended the London Olympic Games as well, but she was hesitant to compare it to the 2014 Games. Where Sochi is much more compact—something that many visitors find attractive—London took place throughout the entire city.

Though less prominent outside of the coastal cluster, Brown said a strong Olympic atmosphere is present in events she’s attended.

“In the city, it doesn’t come across as exciting, but that could be because we don’t understand the language,” she said. “The atmosphere, especially in the biathlon, was really good—really intense.”

BSU at the Games is a freelance news agency operated by 41 student journalists reporting from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games through an immersive-learning program at Ball State University.

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