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Visa Will be Only Credit Card For ’96 Olympics After All

January 12, 1996 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) _ Visa will be the only credit card accepted for ticket purchases at the 1996 Olympics after all, avoiding a potentially embarrassing incursion by key rival American Express.

Earlier this week, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games disclosed it was considering accepting other cards for telephone ticket sales. But the ACOG said Friday it will only accept Visa.

Visa, a big money sponsor of the Games since 1986, has for years proclaimed in its advertisements that arch rival American Express cards aren’t any good at the Olympics.

The contract for the 1996 Games, however, had a loophole allowing ACOG to take competing cards during phone sales. Neither ACOG nor Visa would say what prompted the change Friday.

``Visa ... remains the exclusive payment card of the Atlanta Olympic Games,″ Carl Pascarella, president and chief executive officer of San Mateo, Calif.-based Visa U.S.A., said in a statement.

Marcos Rada, a spokesman for New York-based American Express, said Visa had ``strong-armed″ ACOG into the agreement despite obvious consumer interest in using other cards.

``It’s most unfortunate, and it’s the consumer who suffers the most from the economics and politics of Olympic sponsorships,″ Rada said.

ACOG is depending mightily on strong ticket sales to bring in most of the money it still needs to meet a $1.6 billion budget for staging the Games, and apparently didn’t want to shut out customers who don’t have a Visa card.

ACOG has been accepting other cards, including American Express, at its 14 souvenir stores and mall kiosks in Atlanta. That will stop immediately, said Scott Anderson, an ACOG managing director.

In June, box offices will open and customers can use Visa or cash. During the Games, Visa will be the only card accepted at souvenir stands at Olympic venues.