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Olympic Aid soon to sell plaza tickets

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Flush with thousands of donated tickets to nightly medals ceremonies and free concerts at the Olympic Medals Plaza, Olympic Aid is ready to sell to those clamoring for the coveted tickets.

The Salt Lake Organizing Committee announced this week it is donating 500 tickets per night for the plaza festivities to Olympic Aid, the official charity of the Olympics. The tickets include performances by the Dave Matthews Band, Creed and Foo Fighters. Eager ticket hopefuls have been staking out Smith's stores around Utah for the elusive — and free — medals plaza tickets.

As a charitable fund-raiser, Olympic Aid plans to sell those tickets for $100 to $200 apiece. The money paid is a tax-deductible donation. The $100 ticket includes admission to the plaza, and the $200 ticket adds a VIP access to the Olympic Aid Sport and Spirit Gallery to meet with Olympic athletes and artists.

Olympic Aid debuted at the Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games and raised $18 million. They continued on to raise $13 million at the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games and $5 million at the Sydney Summer Olympic Games. The money was used to provide medical assistance, educational programs and sports activities to children in 15 war-torn countries.

Along with the ticket auction, Olympic Aid is hoping to raise money by auctioning off Olympians' athletic equipment, said Johann Olav Koss, an Olympic Aid spokesman and four-time Olympic gold medalist in speedskating for Norway.

Koss said people seem to be enormously interested and willing to pay high prices for athletes' equipment. In the Sydney Summer Olympic Games, Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe's signed swimsuit went for $100,000.

Koss became involved with Olympic Aid in 1993 when he visited the African country of Eritrea. He donated the prize money from his 1,500-meter victory and openly encouraged other athletes to do the same. He said he thinks the Olympics should be brought back to the roots, to the value of the Games.

"It means something deeper, something better, something we can look up to," Koss said.

Olympic Aid plans to begin selling tickets next week under a distribution method that was not immediately announced.

E-mail: sgiles@desnews.com