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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

GROWING PAINS: Youth Games Publicity No Invitation to Attend

I had these World Youth Games figured all wrong.

Maybe you noticed that you cannot walk 500 meters, buy bread or turn on the radio without being assaulted by happy, fit, multiethnic children's faces. Or by those charming logos on windows, bags, stickers, posters, T-shirts and caps.

Some cynics are complaining that those are all expensive products of Mayor Yury Luzhkov's desire to win the presidency in 2000 and the Olympics in 2012.

But see, even though he went so far as to move homeless people and close markets to make the city look spiffy, I took all that publicity to be an invitation. As the mother of a 5-year-old whose interest in all sports is just emerging, I took all that publicity to mean that we could get tickets to see an event or two.

But we never heard a word about how to get tickets. We were prepared to wait in line. But we never saw any information about where to line up.

Turns out that was because there never was any such information. When questioned about it, officials for the games had all sorts of answers. No tickets except for invited guests. Tickets were given to schoolchildren. A reporter for The Associated Press who asked about tickets was told by an angry spokeswoman: "Why do you want to go? There will be nothing for adults to do there."

On Sunday, the United States played Poland in soccer. My husband finally decided he and Sam would take their chances trying to get into the game. When they approached the vast line of Interior Ministry troops outside the stadium and asked how to buy tickets, they were told, "Nelzya," or "You can't." They persisted and eventually were passed on to an older man in a fancier uniform.

When my husband again asked where he could buy tickets, this man asked what country they were from. Upon hearing "the United States," he pulled out a wad of tickets, handed over two and told them to enjoy the game. Free. No admission fee, no "tip."

They did enjoy the game. But others haven't been so lucky and have been turned away from events, even though the stadiums have not been full.

A couple of days later, I called the press office for the World Youth Games, and a very nice Alexei Lebedev told me that earlier this year every school got tickets to hand out and the 10 Moscow district government offices got some, too. But what if you missed out on those opportunities (as my son apparently had, even though he goes to a Russian detsky sad, or kindergarten)? Can you buy tickets?Yes, he said, he saw someone selling some outside a metro station that morning. But wait, I had been told no tickets were for sale. Lebedev had the perfect answer: "Yes, they were for sale -- if he was selling them."