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Olympics tickets are hot auction items

Tickets and hotel rooms to the Winter Games are in short supply through official Web sites. But people with Olympics fever can snag them on auction sites such as eBay.

With less than two weeks until the Winter Games, eager Olympics fans are turning to online auctions for everything from $3,500 hotel packages to $1.99 stamps and pins.

Hard-to-get tickets to opening and closing ceremonies and popular events such as figure skating and downhill skiing are being offered for several hundred dollars. More modest tchotchkes, such as a bottle of Budweiser with a message of Olympic support on it, are selling for under $5.

Boulder, Colo., resident Dan Rabin turned to eBay for tickets to the Olympics after realizing he had made a mistake with his travel plans: He owned tickets to events scheduled a day before his flight would arrive in Salt Lake City. Rabin said he has since bought tickets to snowboarding and freestyle skiing and has sold some of his extra tickets through the site.

"I thought it was the natural place to turn," Rabin said. "Since the tickets that were the most in demand went very quickly from the Olympics site, eBay was the first place I thought to look."

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee, which is putting on the 2002 Winter Games, paved the way for games-related auctions last year when it auctioned on eBay front-row seats to events such as figure skating and ice hockey. This year, the committee is offering bronze sculptures and paving bricks through eBay.

Several people who participated in the Olympic torch relay have been selling their torches and official relay jackets on the online auction site and fetching bids of more than $2,000 for the torches alone.

Half-price online
The Salt Lake Organizing Committee estimates it has sold about 93 percent of the tickets to the games. The Salt Lake Convention and Visitors bureau projects hotels will be 95 percent to 97 percent occupied during the Olympics.

But many of the tickets and hotel rooms were bought by travel and ticket brokers. With the September terrorist attacks and the economic downturn, demand dropped for Olympics packages, meaning many were stuck trying to get rid of excess tickets and hotel rooms.

San Diego resident Gary Ravet said he turned to eBay recently after hearing that prices for Olympics tickets were going for half of their face value. Ravet said he has procured several tickets through the site and scored a bargain on opening-ceremony tickets, paying less than half the $885 face value.

"I think that's pretty typical," Ravet said. "I've been to several Olympics and sporting events. People tend to get overanxious and overpay. A year in advance, people think everything's going to be sold."

Brooke deLench is offering a five-night stay in a room at the Monaco Hotel in Salt Lake City during the Olympics. She asked for a $3,500 opening bid for the hotel room but didn't get any bids.

She acknowledged that the price was expensive but said she was asking less than she paid for it.

"We're just looking to recoup the value," deLench said. "I'm sure we'll find somebody that we will be able to give it away to, but that's not our intent."