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Olympic Games: Sydney reports early ticket sales success

SYDNEY'S OLYMPICS organisers, beset by scandals, had some good news this weekend - Australians are buying tickets to see the 2000 Games.

Local media calculated that, with 14 months to go to the Games, two million of the 3.5 million full-price tickets set aside for Australians will be sold through the initial offer that closed on Friday.

The sales are the test of how much the Games have been damaged in the eyes of Australians by months of scandal over how International Olympic Committee members chose host cities.

The Sydney organisers have struggled with marketing and sponsorship targets since the scandals broke and last month Michael Knight, the New South Wales state Olympics Minister, cut millions of dollars in "luxuries" for IOC visitors from the Games budget.

But yesterday a spokesman for Knight said that the organisers looked on target to get revenue they sought from the first round of local ticket sales.

An American company contracted to provide bands for the Sydney Games is suing the organisers. World Projects Corporation had been given the job of organising marching bands for the September 2000 opening ceremony.

But the Games organisers changed their minds last month and decided to use local performers. On Friday, the U.S. company filed a writ suing Knight and the organising committee for breach of contract.

A total of 9.6 million tickets will be available for the Games. Of these, four million will be sold overseas and half a million will go to journalists and athletes. The remaining 1.5 million are reserved for schoolchildren and community groups.