Last-minute surge in sales of Olympics tickets

It was a marathon with a sprint finish, a mass sprint finish. A surge of last-minute interest for tickets for next year's London Olympics resulted in a total of more than 20 million applications for the 6.6 million on offer and left rhythmic gymnastics as one of the more improbable sell-outs in British sporting history.

The London 2012 organisers stressed at the start of the six-week window that supporters need not rush into deciding which events to apply for and the British public took them at their word with a late scramble on Tuesday night.

In all, 1.8 million people have applied and more than half the 650 sessions across 26 sports are over-subscribed.

Five events are sold out in their entirety – track cycling, triathlon, modern pentathlon, cross-country equestrian are the others – and require a ballot to determine successful applicants, while most swimming and tennis sessions will also need a ballot.

The opening and closing ceremonies are also sold out, including the top price £2,012 tickets, although, surprisingly, there are tickets available for some of the athletics sessions in the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium.

Applicants will find out if they have secured tickets in June, although they will get an idea any time after 10 May, when organisers begin taking money from accounts.

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (Locog), said: "We are thrilled with the response right across the board. Certain events have seen massive demand – for example the opening ceremony, which is more than 10 times over-subscribed, so there will understandably be disappointment, and we will find a way to go back to those people with other tickets."

Unsuccessful applicants will be given the chance to buy tickets for other events, with sports such as handball and football likely to have seats on offer. For those who find themselves with too many tickets there will be an opportunity to resell them at face value through the organisers, who will set up a website next year.

The organisers need to bring in £500m from ticket sales, around a quarter of their budget, and the level of interest over the six-week window is a fillip. While the opening ceremony is 10 times over-subscribed, it is the sell-out of the rhythmic gymnastics – 24,000 tickets for four days of competition in Wembley Arena – that confirms the broad appeal of the first Games in the UK since 1948.

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