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Games add surfing - the Web


Tickets to the 2002 Olympics have taken their place on the on-line auction block alongside Lady Diana flower vases, Fred Flintstone holograms and passes to see Madonna in Vegas.

But the seller, in this case, isn't someone in Peoria looking to make a fast buck, it's the Salt Lake City organizers of the Winter Games looking to make big bucks.

For the first time, the official host of the Olympics is selling tickets on the Internet to the highest bidders, using eBay to handle the transactions. The first 100 tickets were posted May 20, with a bidding deadline of May 30.

These are "super-prime Jack Nicholson seats," according to Mitt Romney, president of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee.

Romney says his auction is "more democratic" than the "old-boy network, sponsorships or a broker who scalps them for the highest price."

Scalpers should have it this good. By yesterday afternoon, a pair of women's figure skating tickets with a face value of $750 had attracted a bid of $7,600. Two seats by the penalty box for the men's gold medal hockey game, retail value $850, were up to $4,100. At the other end of the pot of gold, a pair of tickets to be at the foot of the snowboarding course for the men's half pipe competition, face value $110, were up to $760.

"Maybe the International Olympic Committee should have auctioned off its votes on eBay instead of taken bribes," cracked Tom Clyde, a columnist for the Park Record in Park City, site of the skiing event.

If you miss out on this batch, sit tight. Romney has about 900 more front-row seats he'll release from his secret stash to keep democracy safe.

Auction profits will go toward the cost of the 2002 Paralympics for disabled athletes to be held in Salt Lake right after the Winter Games.

Not that Romney couldn't use a couple of extra bucks. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee has an estimated revenue shortfall of $54 million in a $1.3 billion budget and may have to pay up to $2.8 million in property taxes to northern Utah communities for venue sites.

Last week, the IOC promised to give Romney a bigger allowance for flowers and props so that the televised portion of the XIX Winter Olympiad doesn't look like a family reunion at a bowling alley.

The auction block may come to the rescue again. The SLOC Web site is selling commemorative bricks and clothing and will be auctioning 365 "limited edition" bronze sculptures.

But whatever you do, don't try to pay with an American Express card. Membership may have its privileges, but Visa is the official card of the 2002 Olympic Games.

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