By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Pyeongchang 2018 daily ticket sales have tripled since the start of the Olympic torch relay in South Korea last month with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) hopeful of 90 percent of them being sold by the start of the Winter Games on Feb. 9.
Organizers have so far sold about half of the expected 1.1 million ticket target after months of lagging sales.
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But IOC Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi said on Wednesday the numbers had picked up in the first Asian country outside Japan to host the Winter Games since the flame arrived in South Korea from ancient Olympia on Nov. 1.
"We discussed about the ticketing situation, which is improving," Dubi said after a progress report on the Pyeongchang Games to the IOC Executive Board.
"It is true we can see a big difference in tickets sales on a daily basis. Sales have tripled from prior to the torch relay," he said.
Low numbers in the previous months triggered alarm bells among organizers who decided to enforce a back-up plan of mobilizing 17 local governments and schools to boost sales.
"We are now at 55 percent. We average 1,200 a day without counting school sales," Dubi said.
"We have to trust the Koreans. They said there would be a last minute surge of sales. The intention is to get to 90 percent at the start of the Games which would be a fabulous result."
The run-up to the Games has been overshadowed by the ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula and the IOC decision on Tuesday to ban Russia from the Games over "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system.
Political tension has risen in recent months with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump exchanging threats and insults over the North's nuclear missile development program.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Ken Ferris)