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Organisers release thousands more Games tickets

Written by: Staff
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MELBOURNE, Mar 13 (Reuters) Commonwealth Games organisers released 22,000 more tickets today, a day after giving away 2.5 million Australian dollars(1.8 million dollars) worth of opening ceremony tickets to volunteers.

With most of the 4,500 athletes from 53 nations and 71 competing associations already in the southern city of Melbourne for the March 15-26 Games, officials are still left with some 400,000 unsold tickets.

The latest release of 22,287 tickets were for nine different sports including swimming (5,272), netball (5,130), hockey (4,519), and artistic gymnastics (3,175).

Melbourne 2006 Chief Executive John Harnden said about half the extra tickets that went on sale today were from unsold corporate and tourism packages.

He said the rest were ''new seats'' freed up after final logistical checks were made for such things as sight lines from broadcast positions before seating plans were finalised.

''What we've had the team doing over the last couple of days is going around to the venues and just double- and triple-checking all the camera platforms on all of those sites,'' Harnden told reporters.

''All along we have been conservative in our estimates of seating capacities at venues.'' PHENOMENAL Harnden said more than 1.3 million tickets had been sold, more than at any other Commonwealth Games.

''I just think that's phenomenal, it's a record by a long, long way,'' he added.

But faced with potentially embarrassing rows of empty seats during Wednesday's opening ceremony, Games organisers said on Sunday they had given away 5,000 tickets to event volunteers.

The opening ceremony tickets are priced between 420 Australian dollars and 590 Australian dollars. Local media reported on Monday that there were still another 5,000 tickets left for the ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Critics have dismissed the multi-sports event as an outdated relic of the British Empire but the mood among athletes has generally been upbeat.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, who will officially open the 18th Commonwealth Games on Wednesday, also praised the event.

''As we watch our finest sportsmen and women compete, we will see clearly what exercise at the very highest level can contribute to both body and spirit,'' she said during a Commonwealth Day church service in Sydney.

Games organisers apologised last week after offers to buy opening ceremony tickets were sent to several dozen deceased whose names had been inadvertently left on a database.

REUTERS PM KP1251

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