Asian Games Sales Soft

One week before the Asian Games begin in the South Korean city of Incheon, organizers admit not many tickets have been sold – only 10 percent, in fact.

Photo: AP Photo / Lee Jin-man
Workers attach a banner of Incheon Asian Games. North Korea said it won't send cheerleaders to the upcoming Asian Games in rival South Korea, blaming what it called Seoul's hostility. 

Though touted as an Olympic-scale event, the public doesn’t seem very impressed, and local media have said that North Korea’s decision to not send its 350-strong army of female cheerleaders, which is quite popular in the south, has dampened local enthusiasm.

But organizers are playing down the low ticket sales, saying they want to emphasize a “low-cost model” as an example to other Asian countries. According to Channel NewsAsia, they have spent just more than $2 billion on the Incheon Games so far, which is about one-tenth of what China spent on the Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010.

In contrast, the Beijing Olympics cost $40 billion and the Sochi Games $20 billion. Chief organizer Kim Yong-soo has said the Games will be “more economical and efficient” than past Games, so the event should “provide a role model” for other countries that wish to host it in the future.

This “frugality” will extend to the opening ceremony, a K-pop extravaganza that has been greatly scaled back since its original inception. Organizers have made a point of ruling out filling seats with ticket giveaways or busing in schoolchildren and soldiers, but mainly because of logistical reasons.

The site, which has 49 venues, covers a huge area and transportation is difficult. Most of the facilities were built by the city of Incheon, which is desperate to be seen as a major Asian business hub separate from the capital of Seoul. The Games are an investment in its own future.