Japan tackles ticket trouble

Japanese organisers of the 2002 World Cup will print an extra two million domestic postal ticket application forms after being overwhelmed by demand.

Japanese organisers of the 2002 World Cup will print an extra two million domestic postal ticket application forms after being overwhelmed by demand.

Sales had an inauspicious kick-off on Thursday when internet applications in the host nations, Japan and South Korea ,were delayed and fans complained about their slim chance of seeing a live game.

Applications for around three million of the tickets opened internationally at 0001 GMT - 0901 in Japan - with the game's world ruling body, Fifa, aiming to sell many of them over the internet for the first time. But shortly before the planned start, Fifa, football's world body, said online problems meant that fans in Korea and Japan would be left to rely on paper application forms - available at post offices and local government offices - for at least two or three days.

Japanese organisers decided to distribute the additional two million forms to 25,000 post offices and official World Cup shops nationwide to satisfy the demands of fans who have been unable to apply for tickets over the internet. Tickets will available to the public on 5 March.

On Thursday, nearly three million forms were snapped up hours after hitting post office and official World Cup shop counters. At present, fans can only apply for tickets in the hope of emerging as a lucky winner in a random draw later in the year. In Japan, World Cup organisers expect to receive around five million applications for the 630,000 tickets available. Of those, however, only around 220,000 will be available for general applications by residents of Japan. In South Korea, a recent poll found as many as nine million fans wanted tickets.

Thursday's teething problems were not the first to hit preparations for the 2002 World Cup. Japan recently angered Korean organisers with plans to print "Japan" before "Korea" on official documents, including ticket applications for the finals, although they now seem to have backed down. Korea was printed before Japan on the cover of application forms available in Japan on Thursday.

Korean organisers said Fifa had agreed to allow Japan to host the final game, but named the event the Korea-Japan World Cup as compensation for South Korea.

In South Korea, fans now have a chance of 230,000 of the 740,000 tickets allocated, with organisers saying 820,000 mail-in forms were distributed on Thursday.

The Korean World Cup organising committee said the launch was disappointing, blaming the bout of bad weather for the disappointing early response. The heaviest snow in 32 years, up to 11 inches deep, blanketed South Korea on Thursday, paralysing much of the country.

Tickets for the 32-nation, 64-game tournament, to be played at 20 sites from 31 May 31 to 30 June 2002, cost between £40 and £500, depending on the round and location.

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