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Archive for Thursday, January 30, 1992

OLYMPIC PRICE-GOUGING

January 30, 1992

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People frustrated or frightened by astronomical costs of making arrangements in Barcelona, Spain, for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games are almost certain to take some delight from the fact that price-gouging by some Spanish property-owners has boomeranged.

After months of talk about a severe housing shortage for the Summer Olympics, there could actually be a housing surplus. Main reason? Greed.

Organizers have canceled more than 400 first-class hotel reservations, many of which were set aside for use by corporate sponsors. Pedro Fontana, director general of the Barcelona Olympic Organizing Committee, blamed high prices and a worldwide recession for the cancellations. Fontana said further cuts in room reservations may be forthcoming if sponsors continue to scale back Olympic plans.

``The world economic situation has influenced those people who do not feel they need to be at the Olympic Games,'' he told the newspaper La Vanguardia. ``We felt if we knew we did not need those rooms, it would be best to cancel them right away.''

The tourism dip echoes the situation in Albertville, France, where the Winter Olympics begin Feb. 8. Officials in the Savoie region, where events will be held, have said that room reservations in the venue area are below expectations.

Little wonder, when prices such as $450 a day are being charged for what some regard as marginal facilities. That doesn't even include any food or transportation, which are also reported as sky-high in the Olympic venues.

The organizing committee reserved 80 percent of the hotel rooms in Barcelona three years ago for Olympic officials and sponsors, leaving just 2,000 rooms for the estimated 400,000 tourists expected to attend the Games. But prices have prompted charges of price-gouging and have inspired waves of protest.

A 15 percent reduction in price was agreed to last September at International Olympic Committee meetings in Berlin, but the reduction still did not free any beds. Many tourists are booked into hotels nearer to France than Barcelona.

Let's hope the greedy entrepreneurs who decided to get rich quickly by soaking the Olympics visitors continue to take a painful financial bath.

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