Slow ticket sales for paralympics

REBECCA TODD
Last updated 05:00 06/01/2011

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Just 3000 tickets have been sold for an international athletics event to be held in Christchurch this month.

The International Paralympics Committee (IPC) Athletics World Championships from January 21-30 will see more than 1000 paralympic athletes, 900 officials and about 600 supporters arriving in Christchurch over the next two weeks.

The Queen Elizabeth II Park event will include track and field events for athletes with disabilities such as spinal-cord injury and cerebral palsy, as well as amputees and the visually impaired.

The stadium has seating for 15,000 spectators, but only 3000 tickets have been sold so far.

Event manager Neil Blanchfield said ticket sales had been slow, but he expected them to pick up over the next two weeks, and he hoped to get at least 10,000 spectators.

"Christchurch is going to rally around this event," he said.

"I'm confident that as we get closer to the day, our sales of tickets will grow."

Blanchfield said about 1060 athletes from 80 countries had registered.

A few athletes from countries considered "at risk" by Immigration New Zealand, such as Ivory Coast, were having trouble getting visas, but otherwise all were expected to arrive in the city soon, he said.

The athletes would be supported by 700 team officials, and 200 international officials were flying in to help run the event, Blanchfield said. Up to 600 international visitors were expected to support the teams.

He said 1000 hotel rooms were booked two years ago.

About 120 journalists from around the world would report on the championships, and live broadcasts would go to Britain, Australia and Brazil.

Blanchfield said the 10-day event would cost about $5 million to stage, with contributions from the IPC, Sport and Recreation New Zealand, the Christchurch City Council and New Zealand Major Events. A second training track had been built at QEII, which would make Christchurch an attractive venue for athletics events.

He said 14 Red Buses had been converted to hold up to 10 wheelchair passengers at a time.

Blanchfield said the championships would give Christchurch a cash injection of about $12m, and the economic impact for New Zealand was expected to be more than $72m.

About 800 Cantabrians had volunteered to help out at the event, and he wanted to speak to any ethnic groups that were keen to meet competitors from their home countries.

The opening ceremony will be held at noon on January 21, when the athletes will parade from the Worcester St bridge to Cathedral Square.

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- The Press

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