London: Tickets for the 2012 London Olympics went on sale Tuesday with organisers promising the website would not crash under the expected huge demand.
Organisers are urging applicants to approach the start of the ballot for 6.6 million tickets as a marathon not a sprint with applications possible for six weeks.
Allocation of tickets is not on a first-come-first-served basis, meaning every request made until 26 April stands an equal chance of success.
London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said the site had gone active at midnight (0000 GMT) and “we have had no reported glitches”.
“There will be no greater chance of getting a ticket if you apply on the first day rather than later,” he said.
Organisers are determined to avoid the problems which plagued the 2008 Beijing Olympics, whose website crashed within minutes of tickets going on sale.
London 2012 boasts that its site is the third-largest of its kind in history, with only eBay and Amazon bigger—and the software has been thoroughly “stress-tested”.
Coe revealed that 2.5 million people had registered their interest in buying tickets even before sales began, with more than one million people registering a desire to see Olympic football matches.
He encouraged people to “take your time, figure out your budget and figure out what you want to see”.
“We have put all the information for people to be able to plan their Games in the public domain so you know the sport, you know the sport session by session, you know the venue, you know the date and you know the price so you can actually go out there and plan your Games,” he told AFP in an interview.
Applicants from Britain and most European countries can apply through the http://www.tickets.london2012.com website, but other countries will need to apply via their local National Olympic Committee or authorised sellers.
Applicants must wait until 24 June to find out if they have secured tickets.
Coe said organisers had taken every precaution to ensure tickets are bought by people who want to watch the Games, not by unscrupulous buyers who will try to exploit demand for the top events by re-selling at a profit.
He concedes that “no one will believe me if I say we will have a ticket tout-free Games—but what we have done everything we can to disrupt that business”.
“There is a Metropolitan Police team of some 40 people now and they’re not just setting up and planning—they are arresting at this moment,” Coe said.
“We’re very keen to make sure that our tickets get into the hands of people that really want to cherish them, really understand what Olympic sport is about and really want to talk to their grandchildren about what it was they saw years later.”
Tickets range from £20 ($32, €23) for early matches in the women’s football tournament to £725 for the top-rated athletics sessions such as the men’s 100 metres final when Usain Bolt could retain his title.
There are 650 sessions across 26 sports to choose from, with individual buyers limited to a maximum of 20 tickets each, although that drops to four for the most popular events.
Organisers say a quarter of the Games’ budget—approximately £2 billion pounds ($3.2 billion, €2.3 billion)—needs to be raised from ticket sales.