In exactly five weeks time, tickets for the London 2012 Olympics will go on sale. Planning on buying any? You may be in for a shock.
What do we know so far? We know the range of prices for each event, which'll start at £20 and peak at £2012. We know the draftevent schedule, which is due to be confirmed next Tuesday. We know that a Visa card will be required to buy tickets online. We know that 6.6 million tickets will be available, for a total of 671different sessions. We know there'll be a public ballot for any sessions that are over-subscribed. And we know that everyone will have an equal chance in that ballot, whether they apply on 15 March or 26 April. This we know.
But this (recently added to London 2012's ticketing FAQ) you probably didn't know.
How many tickets am I likely to be allocated depending on how many I apply for? We urge you to consider your budget very carefully when applying for tickets. Once your application is processed you cannot cancel, change or return the tickets you are allocated. When you apply, the maximum amount you could be charged will be made clear to you and you'll need to have sufficient funds available to cover this.
In other words, when you enter the Olympic ticket ballot you're agreeing to pay for every ticket you're offered. Apply for one, get none, and you'll pay nothing. Apply for twenty, get three, and you'll pay for three. But apply for twenty, get twenty, and you'll pay for twenty. This is a ballot with an expensive sting in its tail. If you can't afford to pay for your backup choices, don't risk entering.
When applying for tickets can I rank my preferences? We encourage you to take your time in selecting a range of sports, sessions and price categories to apply for as there won’t be an opportunity to rank your preferences within your choices. Tickets start at £20 across all sports. All price categories will provide a great Games experience.
Suppose you want to see the diving. That'll be popular, so how many sessions should you bid for? Apply for just one and it's quite possible you'll lose out, completely, and never see an Olympic dive in your life. To increase your chances you need to apply for more sessions - maybe a lot more, depending on how oversubscribed you think the diving's going to be. Get the balance right and you could be watching Tom Daley leap. But overdo it and you could find yourself lumbered with several tickets across several days, when you really only wanted one. Expensive mistake.
How can I go about applying for tickets for groups of family and friends? You will be notified if you are unsuccessful in any of the sessions you applied for - you will either receive the allocation you applied for, or you will be unsuccessful and receive none. So if a family of five applies for tickets for a Handball session (providing you're within the ticket limit for that session) and you are allocated tickets to that session you will receive either the total quantity of tickets you requested for that session or none at all.
Suppose you're a family of five who want to see some track cycling at the Velodrome. You don't mind when, because it's the school holidays, but how many sessions do you apply for? You'd like to spread the possibilities over a week, but that's too dangerous. What if you ended up with five tickets for Monday afternoon and five for Monday evening and five for Tuesday afternoon, etc etc, that'd break the bank. It'd be safer to apply for only one session, say Wednesday afternoon... but then you might miss out on the cycling altogether. Best to aim low and go to the preliminary round of the handball instead, I'm sure the kids won't be disappointed.
Suppose you have your heart set on attending the Beach Volleyball final. Tickets are available at £450, £295, £185, £125 and £95, and you can choose just one of these price categories or a wider range. The £95 tickets will obviously be more popular than the £450, so you can maximise your chances by including the higher value tickets in your range. Unfortunately that also maximises your chances of having to pay a lot rather than a little. Offer to pay £450 or £95, and you can bet that £450's the more likely total to be whipped from your bank balance.
Applications for tickets close at a minute to midnight on Tuesday 26th April. At this point you'll have offered some sort of pre-authorisation on your Visa card for every ticket you've applied for - your money's primed to go. It'll take London 2012 and their friends at Ticketmaster some time to allocate who gets what, and then they'll email to tell you precisely how successful you've been. Will you have the event you wanted or not? Will you be signed up for a balanced range of sports at optimal times, or will you be making do with second best spread awkwardly across a fortnight? Most importantly, can your bank balance take an instant hit on some as-yet unspecified date if you end up being more successful than you hoped? Plan carefully, or this might hurt.
How do refunds and resales work if I decide I don’t want my tickets? Customers will have the opportunity to resell their tickets at face value through the official London 2012 resale programme in 2012. This will be the only authorised way to buy tickets from people offering their tickets for resale. Further details will be announced in early 2012.
Just read those last two FAQs again. Your money will be taken in May/June 2011. But if you end up with tickets you don't want, for whatever reason, you won't be able to sell them until some time in 2012. Any unexpected hole in your cashflow will last at least six months, whereas Olympic bosses get all their ticket money more than a year before the first event takes place. Someone's thought about this very deliberately.
When the official publicity kicks off for Olympic ticketing, one message will be very clear. Don't apply for tickets you know you can't afford. Less well-off folk will be penalised, because they can only risk having a few tickets in the great Olympic raffle, and may end up seeing nothing. Meanwhile rich folk can bid for all the best tickets in as many sports as they like, because their finances can take the hit no matter what. Best plump up your cash reserves if you want to see anything decent. This we now know.