Ticket sales for the winter Olympics in Turin had reached over 690,000 by 31 January. The figure falls far short of the initial 830,000 target, although the organising committee claim that the tickets sold amount to around 91 per cent of budgeted sales, with a value of 58.8 million. A spokesman told the BBC that some tickets are being held back for on-the-spot sales, explaining that it's typical for Italians to do things at the last minute.

Around 300,000 tickets have been sold in Italy, despite the findings of a recent poll which revealed 58.5 per cent of Italians are unaware that the 3.3 billion games are due to start on 10 February. The remaining 390,000 tickets have been sold overseas to 45 countries. After Italy, the US has purchased the most tickets, followed by Germany, France, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland.

Worries about weather conditions have been lifted after some 60 cm of snow fell on the mountains at the end of January, although the Olympic committee also has artificial snow cannons on hand. But the heavy snowfall brought its own problems when a security tent near the Oval Lingotto speed skating venue collapsed on 28 January under its weight. Nobody was injured, and the committee said the tent would be rebuilt in time for the start of the games.

Tickets for the event, which runs from 10-26 February, are still available at www.torino2006.org or by calling 039838250.