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Two-thirds of luxury Olympics deals still unsold

The Olympic Stadium with the figure 1 mown into the grass to mark one year to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games is seen in
The Olympic Stadium with the figure 1 mown into the grass to mark one year to go until the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games is seen in

By Peter Griffiths

LONDON (Reuters) - Around two-thirds of the most expensive corporate hospitality packages for the 2012 London Olympics have yet to be sold, although organizers said on Wednesday they were confident of finding buyers for the rest despite the gloomy economic outlook.

Prestige Ticketing Ltd, the company with sole corporate hospitality rights inside the Olympic venues, said it had sold 30-40 percent of its allocation, with strong demand for the tennis, diving and equestrian events.

Luxury hospitality deals cost up to 4,500 pounds ($6,933) a head for a day, including top-tier tickets, wine and meals in a three-storey pavilion being built next to the main stadium in east London.

"Whilst the economic climate is challenging, we have to work that bit harder and not rely on the banking and financial sectors which are traditionally very strong in hospitality," Alan Gilpin, Prestige's chief operating officer, told a news conference with less than 300 days to go before the Games begin.

Traditional customers in finance and advertising have been joined by companies in sectors like construction, energy and mining, he added. Prestige said the first event where it sold out its allocation was the women's hockey final.

The company, a joint venture between French catering group Sodexo and British hospitality firm Mike Burton Group, is selling 120,000 tickets for the Olympics and the Paralympics, less than 1 percent of the total. The Games' organizers have appointed two other companies to sell hospitality deals, Thomas Cook and Jet Set Sports.

Many Britons were left disappointed after failing to secure tickets for the Games. With their high price tag, hospitality deals are the only way to guarantee a place at the most popular events.

Prestige's marketing director Tony Barnard said it would "certainly" sell all of its packages for the main Olympics site in east London.

It is building a hospitality pavilion with a 3,000 capacity, costing 7.5 million pounds, less than 100 meters (yards) from the Olympics stadium. It is banking on hard-pressed companies using the Games to try to drum up more business from potential clients.

Professor Simon Chadwick, director of the Center for the International Business of Sport at Coventry University, central England, who has conducted research for Prestige, said the downturn had affected hospitality firms in recent years, but the Games' special cachet would probably give them a boost.

"The corporate hospitality industry has hit a number of challenges in the last three or four years, particularly in light of the economic downturn," Chadwick told a news conference.

"But I think the Olympic Games is exceptional...and has the strength to transcend prevailing economic conditions."

($1 = 0.649 British Pounds)

(Editing by Justin Palmer)