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Olympic Capitalism

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Let the Olympic flea market begin.

These days you can buy almost anything Olympic, for a price, of course.

Last week, for a little more than $100 you could have purchased a ticket to see the 2002 Winter Games opening ceremonies 48 hours before the rest of the world.

But those who missed the chance needn't worry; more opportunities should be coming shortly.

It seems a few of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's Olympic and Paralympic volunteers are looking to make a fast buck.

The quick cash will come by hawking the free tickets they were given to the opening ceremonies dress rehearsal.

That dress rehearsal ? Feb. 6, two days before the real deal ? includes all the pageantry, music and aura of the opening ceremonies, sans, of course, the lighting of the Olympic caldron.

While most volunteers cherish such tickets, there are a select few who would rather pocket some cash than sit through the pre-ceremony.

At least one volunteer has sold his ticket through the online auction house eBay. The cost? A mere $112.50, or about one-quarter of what ticket brokers are charging for real opening ceremonies.

The reason volunteers can sell the tickets is that SLOC made the volunteer passes transferrable instead of non-transferrable, meaning that anyone with a seat can give it away, sell it or trade it.

SLOC now says it isn't going to police the selling and doesn't regret making the tickets transferrable.

"These (tickets) were an expression of gratitude and thanks for their work," SLOC spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said. "America is a free country, and we're not going to monitor what people do or don't do with their tickets."

During the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gained access to the opening ceremonies dress rehearsal and reported much of the festivities beforehand. As punishment Olympic organizers there voided several of the newspaper's Olympic credentials.

Opening ceremonies aside, many folks are hawking "priceless" pieces of Olympic memorabilia. Even SLOC's Olympic torches are going on the fire sale. One recently fetched a price of $5,200 and the relay hasn't even reached Utah yet.

Then there are those free Olympic Medals Plaza tickets recently distributed by Smith'sTix. The ones for Dave Matthews Band go for $150 to $200 on eBay.

While selling all things Olympic isn't necessarily immoral, many volunteers find selling dress-rehearsal tickets over the line.

"It really makes me mad that someone can be such a low-life," one SLOC volunteer wrote on the organization's Web site. "Sure, people have circumstances that would make them want to sell certain things, but this guy has no sense of values."

E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com