Demand for tickets high ahead of second round of sales

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BEIJING, Oct 29 (Reuters) Some 1.85 million tickets for next year's Beijing Olympics will be up for grabs on a first-come, first-serve basis when the second round of domestic sales start tomorrow.

In all, some seven million tickets for the August 8-24 Games will be available to the public with some two million kept back for Olympic officials, sponsors, competitors and dignitaries.

Given China's 1.3 billion population and the excitement the Games are engendering, domestic demand is likely to be at least as high as it has been among Olympic officials.

''There is huge demand, the whole world wants to come to China,'' the International Olympic Committee's Hein Verbruggen said in Beijing last week.

''All the National Olympic Committees (NOC), many more NOCs than we normally have, are asking for tickets.'' The first tranche of 1.6 million tickets, which included seats for the opening and closing ceremonies, were allocated earlier this year through a lottery system.

In the first round, soccer and basketball events were among the hottest tickets as well as those where China's medal hopes are high, such as gymnastics and diving.

Tickets for the Games range in price from 5,000 yuan (669 dollar) for opening ceremony to 30 yuan (4.01 dollar) for the preliminary rounds of the softball competition.

BOCOG expects income of around 140 million dollar from ticket sales, according to state news agency Xinhua.

REUTERS PDS KN1754

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