LONDON (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of tickets for Usain Bolt’s return to the scene of his London Olympic victories sold out within 75 minutes of going on sale on Friday, organizers said.
Bolt, who won three sprint golds in London last year to match his Beijing haul, will compete in the IAAF Diamond League meeting on July 26-27. Organizers are billing the event the “Anniversary Games” - a year after the Olympics.
British gold medalists Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis will also take part in the first major sporting event in the Olympic stadium since the Paralympics ended last September.
The attempt to recreate the heady atmosphere of last year’s Games prompted a scramble for tickets reminiscent of the build-up to the Olympics.
Tickets were available only to those who had pre-registered and were snapped up in little over an hour. The stadium is expected to have a capacity of between 50 and 60,000 in July, although the exact figure has not been disclosed.
Those who missed out on Diamond League tickets can still buy seats for Sunday July 28 when Paralympic athletes will be competing. These were also selling well, a spokeswoman for UK Athletics said.
The demand for tickets is a boost for athletics in Britain, a sport that struggles to maintain its profile outside of Olympic years.
UK Athletics this week signed up supermarket group Sainsbury to sponsor its major meetings this summer and back its Paralympians until 2017. Its main sponsor, insurer Aviva, pulled out last year and is being replaced by a series of partners.
Besides the Olympics, the charismatic Bolt had not appeared in London since 2009, partly because of tax laws that could have cost him a share of his prize money and endorsements.
An exemption for non-residents is now in place and organizers of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are hoping the Jamaican includes that in his program for next year.
The timing of the London meeting is also helpful in attracting top athletes because it’s the last major meeting before the world championships in Moscow in August.
The Olympic Stadium in east London will host the world championships in 2017, a year after becoming the new home to Premier League soccer club West Ham United.
Editing by Ed Osmond