By KATIE THOMAS
<nyt_text> </nyt_text> Peter Fekete is about to retire from his job as a maintenance machinist at a General Motors plant in Wilmington, Del. His wife, Irene, is an administrative assistant at a pharmaceutical company.
In any other year, a family trip to China would be out of the question for the Feketes, who live in Cranford, N.J. But this is not any year. Their son, Nik, is competing next month for a spot on the United States wrestling team and with it, a trip to the Olympics in Beijing.
?I figure it?s going to cost me a bundle,? Peter Fekete said. ?But if he qualifies, it would be unbelievable. It would probably be the high point of my life.?
In the years and months leading to the Games, many athletes and their families are devoted to one dream: earning a spot on the United States team. But less than three months before the start of the Summer Games, some of those families have been shocked to learn that the price of attending them this August may be $5,000 to $10,000 a person.
?I heard that number, and I swallowed,? said Joe Mocco, the father of Steve Mocco, another Olympic wrestling hopeful.
Mocco spoke at a news conference Tuesday in Newark, where the launch of Fuel the Dream was announced. Fuel the Dream is a fund-raising campaign sponsored by USA Wrestling to help families pay for a trip to the Olympics.
Mocco has another reason to plan a trip to Beijing: his daughter, Katie, is hoping to compete on the judo team. With four family members who want to attend, Mocco, a retired insurance salesman, said he was considering taking out a mortgage on his home in North Bergen, N.J.
Besides airfare ? estimated to cost $2,000 a person ? the price of hotels can cost more than $4,000 because of 16-day minimum stays, said Rich Bender, executive director of USA Wrestling, the sport?s national governing body.
The United States Olympic Committee provides two free tickets for every event in which an athlete competes, but the families must cover the remaining costs. Some governing bodies, like USA Gymnastics, partly subsidize hotel rooms and other expenses.
Sponsors also contribute. CoSport, which is based in New Jersey and specializes in Olympic tickets and travel packages, offers family members hotel rooms at rates that are generally 40 percent below market value, said Sead Dizdarevic, the company?s chairman. CoSport also donates Olympic travel packages to some governing bodies, like USA Swimming and USA Volleyball. Those groups then auction the packages to supporters. Proceeds go toward helping families pay for travel, Dizdarevic said.
Once in Beijing, a hospitality center offers families lunch and dinner. The center is sponsored by Bank of America, which also provides Internet access and tickets to some events. Darryl Seibel, a spokesman for the U.S.O.C., said the center was making room for 3,500 relatives.
Some families have had to be creative. The parents of Tianna Madison, a long jumper, set up a Web site, www.madisons2olympics.com, to solicit donations. Depending on the level of the contribution, donors will receive thank-you gifts ranging from the flag Madison carried during her victory lap at the 2005 world outdoor championships to the uniform she wore during her winning jump.
Steve Mocco says his family deserves to attend the Beijing Games just as much as he does. ?Every time I compete, they compete,? he said. ?They just don?t have control over the outcome like I do.?
His father, Joe Mocco, said: ?How could you not go? You want to be there to share the victory, and if it doesn?t work out the way we want, we want to be there to comfort him.?