Wembanyama and Mbappé the big draws as Olympic soccer and basketball tickets go on sale

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San Antonio Spurs' Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 draft pick, greets fans before an NBA basketball press conference, Saturday, June 24, 2023, at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

PARIS – Fans hoping to watch major French stars like Victor Wembanyama and Kylian Mbappé play at next year's Paris Olympics could drive up demand when more tickets go on sale Wednesday for four sports that will be staged far from the French capital.

Fans worldwide will be able to buy tickets on a first-come, first-served basis for soccer, basketball, handball and sailing, which are all held regional venues at next year's Summer Games.

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The prospect for French fans to watch wildly popular home favorites such as Wembanyama and Mbappé is sure to boost sales even though the Paris Olympics’ reputation has taken a hit from an ongoing investigation by prosecutors in the city about how contracts have been awarded.

Wembanyama, the NBA's recent No. 1 draft pick, is expected to take part in the Olympic basketball tournament held in Lille. Soccer games are spread across six French cities, with France's men's team playing its first game in Marseille — which also hosts sailing.

Organizers said they originally planned to release those tickets later this year but have brought it forward because of strong demand for five million tickets sold in the first two phases. They were sold to fans worldwide who had to enter a lottery and hope to be allocated the right to buy at prices from 24 euros ($26).

Mbappé, who scored a hat trick in last year's World Cup final loss to Argentina in Qatar, could be the star attraction for France's soccer team. Although it remains unclear if his club — whether he stays at Paris Saint-Germain or moves to Real Madrid — will allow him to take part in the Olympics.

“I always said that it was my dream to play in the Olympic Games,” Mbappé said last month.

Soccer games start two days before the July 26 opening ceremony in Paris, and will also be played in Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes, plus in Paris at PSG’s Parc des Princes stadium.

Basketball’s group-stage games for men and women will be played in Lille, about three hours’ drive northeast of Paris, in the city’s 50,000-seat soccer stadium. The same Pierre Mauroy Stadium also stages men’s and women’s team handball through the end of the Olympics.

Basketball moves to Paris itself when the knockout rounds start.

Ticket sales represent about a third of the operating budget for the Paris Olympics organizers, which is estimated to be at least 4.4 billion euros ($4.8 billion). Billions more will be spent on construction and security.


More AP coverage of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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