Kjellrun Olson of Colorado is excited that the 2002 Winter Games will be staged in nearby Utah next year.

She's a big women's hockey fan, largely because of her sister, Karyn Bye. Bye is expected to be a member of Team USA in Utah as she was in Nagano when the American women won gold.

Olson traveled to Japan to see that tournament and is relieved she won't have to go to all that trouble to see her sister attempt to defend the gold medal in West Valley City's E Center.

There's just one problem — securing a gold-medal game ticket.

Just because Olson is a sibling of a likely U.S. Olympic team member doesn't mean getting a ticket is an easy task. She bought tickets to the preliminary-round games like any other member of the public, and seats to those games remain available.

But if Olson wants to be assured of seeing the gold-medal game, in which the United States and Canada are expected to meet for the world title, she'll have to do what any other would-be spectator must do: Pay $1,195 for an "Olympic experience" ticket package that includes the gold-medal women's hockey game, the closing ceremonies, the men's bobsled final and a Nordic combined event

And that, Olson says, just doesn't seem fair.

As with all other Olympic athletes, each women's hockey player will be given a pair of tickets to each game in which she competes. But those tickets for the gold-medal game, Olson said, will go to Bye's parents or perhaps her boyfriend.

Olson said she and her father contacted USA Hockey and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee to see if they might be able to buy additional tickets for the gold-medal game. They were given no reason to believe tickets would be made available, she said.

However, U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran says that up to 50 extra gold-medal tickets likely would be made available for players to purchase, at face value, a few days before the big game.

"Once a player is named to the Olympic team, they have the ability, if we have extra tickets, to buy more tickets for their family," Moran said. "We make every effort to get them the tickets they need."

But Moran said 50 is the maximum number of extra tickets the USOC expects to receive for the gold-medal game.

USA Hockey spokesman Chuck Menke said this information has not been shared with current Team USA members because there is no guarantee any of them will be playing on the Olympic team in Salt Lake City.

But even if Bye purchases two more tickets, that doesn't solve Olson's problem.

"That's definitely an improvement," she said. "However, my family needs four more tickets. Given that we get two more, then that means that both of my parents will attend the game, my sister's boyfriend and then we draw straws to see if my brother, myself or my husband gets the remaining ticket?"

Olson hopes she will be able to buy a scalped ticket days before the game. SLOC plans to set up a special area where people with tickets to sell or exchange can do so.

Better yet, Olson hopes someone who has an extra ticket to the gold-medal game will contact her long before the event, so she doesn't have to fret about missing one of the greatest moments — or biggest disappointments — in her sister's life.

Olson and her family managed to buy gold-medal game tickets in Nagano but saw that many of the best seats were vacant.

"The spirit of the Olympics should not be about sponsors and corporations who have enough money to throw it around and do whatever they want with it, but rather, the Games are about supporting your country and cheering for the athletes who have literally worked their whole lives for these games," she said.

Olson fears the same will be true in West Valley City and feels USA Hockey should help put any tickets unwanted by sponsors into the hands of players' family members.

But USA Hockey's sponsors will possess fewer than 80 tickets to the gold-medal game. USA Hockey, the USOC and SLOC cannot prevent individuals from buying the $1,194 premium package and then not attending all of the events.

"USA Hockey and the SLOC should put families first.," Olson said.


E-MAIL: zman@desnews.com