Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes proposed months ago that the city buy 1.2 million of the 7.5 million tickets to be issued for the games — about 16 per cent — and distribute them to schools.
Renato Ciuchini, the chief commercial officer for the games, applauded the idea on Thursday, but said the organizing committee would not foot the bill of an estimated $10 million. This would be up to Paes.
"There are no free tickets," Ciuchini said Thursday at a news conference.
"We think the mayor's initiative is marvelous and we support it and are working on it with him," Ciuchini added. "The negotiation is not finished. ... It's for the mayor's office to make an announcement about it."
Paes' office said Thursday "negotiations are ongoing" but indicated no specific plan since he made headlines months ago with the idea. This followed criticism that the poor were priced out of last year's World Cup in Brazil.
"We are trying to do something more democratic," Paes said at the time.
Even without a ticket, some events like road cycling can be seen for free from the streets.
Brazil spent about $15 billion on last year's World Cup, building at least four stadiums that are expected to become "white elephants." Spending on the Olympics is likely to surpass the World Cup.
Rio organizers have a $3 billion operating budget, which is the budget for running just the games and excludes building roads and sports venues.
Ciuchini said recently that ticket sales could bring in "a bit higher revenue" than expected and are crucial to help balance the tight operating budget.
Ticket sales represent 13 per cent of operating budget income. Other income is from licensing, local sponsorships, merchandising, and a large contribution from the International Olympic Committee.
Olympic host cities are bound by contract to pay for any cost overruns or deficits. Rio's 2009 bid document showed $700 million in subsidies from national and local governments if the budget ran a deficit, which Rio hopes to avoid.
Rio says its ticket prices are reasonable. About half are priced under $30. The cheapest ticket — when senior or student discounts are included — is about $8.
"This is two bus fares," Ciuchini said.
He said some banks would even allow the tickets to be paid for in three to five installment payments — just like large-ticket items.
"We believe this is accessible for all Brazilians," he said.
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