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Your guide to planning an Olympic trip

Tickets

Tickets to the 2004 games are in high demand. California-based Cartan Tours, the only U.S. ticket agent for the Olympics, expects to sell between 100,000 and 200,000 Olympic tickets in the States.

Event ticket prices average about $30, which is 30 percent less than for the 2000 Sydney games. Athens prices range from $14 for the less popular and early-round events to $1,170 for the opening ceremonies and $936 for the closing ceremonies. A ticket to the men's basketball final is $410.

Best bargains: the marathon finish, $14; early-round soccer, table tennis and women's volleyball and softball, $14; triathlon, $49; and the women's soccer final, $56.

The first 2004 Olympic tickets were distributed in a May lottery. Tickets will continue to be sold in a series of lotteries based on the order in which requests are received. The next lottery is in October.

For ticket applications, contact Cartan Tours at 1-800-360-2004 or www.cartan.com.

As the games draw near, expect eBay to be filled with tickets and lodging packages for sale.

Getting there

The best round-trip airfares from Portland to Athens start at about $1,000, but reservations for August 2004 will not be taken until mid-September. Travelers who don't want to wait can choose from among the official tours that Cartan offers. Packages that include airfare from New York and six nights of lodging range from $4,995 to $18,995 per person.

Staying there

For those who plan their own trip, the biggest challenge is finding a place to stay. Many rooms are blocked out far in advance, at Olympian prices. That didn't stop Portland's Tracy Forrester in 2000.

'In Sydney, we didn't have a hotel in advance,' she says. 'A week before we went, I sent faxes to every single hotel Ñ and got a room at the regular rate.'

Terrorism

For those concerned about traveling in the Mediterranean, Cartan's travel insurance now covers acts of terrorism. Cartan's Debra Diekman says the optional policy, which adds 8 percent to the price of a trip, has been popular so far.

Sightseeing

Greece is the birthplace of great thinkers and writers such as Plato, Aristotle and Homer.

'We'll go to the Acropolis and the Parthenon,' says Tonia Pajak, who'll be traveling with her 16-year-old son. Other popular side trips are Olympia, west of Athens, site of the ancient Olympic Games and the Temple of Zeus; Relphi, where the famed oracle lived; and various Greek islands.

ÑÊFrank Mungeam