diamond geezer

 Wednesday, February 16, 2011

London 2012  Olympic update
  10 ticketing tips

1) Get an overview of what's on when
The official schedule is really complicated. There are 650-ish sessions in 40-something sports across two-and-a-bit weeks, which makes it really hard to start planning from scratch. London 2012 have produced a mega-pdf, subdivided into mini-pdfs, for the final detail. The Telegraph have a rather nice interactive schedule. But you need to start at a higher level. Try this very-approximate timeline for size.

  weekend 1 
27-29 Jul
week 1
30 Jul-3 Aug
 weekend 2 
4-5 Aug
week 2
6-10 Aug
 weekend 3 
11-12 Aug
Opening ceremony     
Archery, Canoe slalom, Road cycling, Judo     
Badminton, Fencing, Rowing, Swimming, Tennis     
Beach volleyball, Equestrian, Table Tennis, Weightlifting     
Basketball, Boxing, Diving, Football, Gymnastics, Handball, Hockey, Sailing, Volleyball, Water Polo     
Track cycling     
Synchronised swimming, Triathlon     
Athletics, Wrestling     
Marathon, Race walk     
Canoe sprint, Taekwondo     
Mountain bike, Pentathlon, Closing ceremony     

2) Only apply for tickets you know you can afford
We covered this one last week, remember. The application process is a raffle, so you might be tempted to apply for more tickets than you need. But you'll be forced to pay for every ticket you win, so check your potential overdraft before you apply. Payment will be taken somewhere between Tuesday 10 May and Friday 10 June, so we're told. If you're feeling financially screwed at the moment, the BBC website has a helpful table showing where all the £20 tickets are.

3) Get a sense of proportion
There are only 6.6 million tickets up for grabs. That might sound like a lot, but it's not even enough for everyone in London to get one each. Some of these Olympic events are going to be ridiculously over-subscribed. Even if you have hundreds of pounds to splash around, you won't be attending every event you want to see. Don't get your hopes up. In particular don't try to plan yourself a perfect weekend of six consecutive medal-winning sessions, because you'll only end up with two days full of holes.

4) Decide whether you want to see a particular event, or any event
If your only goal is to say "yes, I went to the Olympics", then avoid the massively over-subscribed sessions. Check out the "ticket limit" column on the schedule. If the limit's 4, you're probably not going to get in. If the limit's 20, it's much more likely you'll be lucky. The event you get to attend may not be thrilling, but at least you'll be able to say "I was there".

5) Play the lucky dip
There'll only be a few £20.12 tickets up for grabs for the Opening Ceremony. You barely have any chance at all of getting one. But where's the harm in applying? It won't break the bank, and if you're not successful it won't cost you a thing. Think of it as playing the lottery, with no stake up front. Somebody's got to win, and it could be you. [Session code: ZO001]

6) Know your capacities
The one fact Olympic organisers have failed to mention on their ticket schedule is how many tickets they'll be selling at each session. Several will be saved for sponsors and their hangers-on, the so-called Olympic family. But you can get a pretty good idea of how many tickets are available if you know the capacity of each venue. Some of these are a lot smaller than you might expect, and your chances of getting a ticket will be similarly restricted.

Olympic Stadium 80000 White Water Centre (slalom) 12000
Eton Dorney (rowing) 30000 Woolwich Barracks (shooting) 7500
Greenwich Park 23000 Handball Arena 7000
Hadleigh Farm (mountain biking) 20000 Lord's (archery) 6500
Aquatics Centre 17500 Wembley Arena (gymnastics) 6000
Hockey Centre 16000 BMX circuit 6000 
Horseguards (beach volleyball) 15000 Velodrome 6000
Basketball Arena 12000 Water Polo Arena 5000
Earls Court (volleyball) 15000  The Mall (marathon finish) 1600

7) If you want to go as a group, apply as a group
One useful rule in the ballot is that you'll win either all or none of your tickets in each session. So if six of you want to go and see the rowing, apply as a group of six. That way you'll get either six tickets or nothing. Whatever you do, don't let Dave and his wife apply for their tickets and Julie apply for hers and you get the rest, otherwise you're almost certain to be split up.

8) You don't have to have a Visa card to buy tickets
If you don't have a Visa card, you won't be able to buy tickets online. But you will be able to use the ticket application form in the Official Ticketing Guide instead. This document can be picked up from March 15th onwards in any English branch of Lloyds TSB (or Bank of Scotland in Scotland) (or local library in Northern Ireland). The organisers are happy to take a cheque in an envelope, or even a postal order, to pay for your winning tickets. No plastic monopoly need spoil your enjoyment of the Games.

9) Don't forget there are venues outside London
If you don't live in London, do you really want to battle your way into town, pay through the nose for a Travelodge in Aldgate, then queue to squash yourself into a crammed tube train? Your Olympic Ticket includes a free zone 1-9 travelcard, so it's not all bad news. But why not head outside the capital instead? There are 50 football matches to watch, plus the joys of rowing in Windsor, canoeing in Herts, sailing in Weymouth and mountain biking in Essex. I scouted the four major venues outside London last summer, and my reports might help convince you to follow.

10) All competition schedules are subject to change at any time
Now there's a disclaimer. You may think you've booked tickets for the cross-country riding on July 30th, but London 2012 reserve the right to shift any event in case of bad weather, terrorist alert or whatever. It might be safest to stay at home and watch the whole thing on TV instead. The entire fortnight's optimised for the small screen anyway, plus you can nip out for a drink whenever you like and not be forcefed a Coca Cola. But hey, even if it's only for a preliminary round in the volleyball, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Worth a dip in the Olympic bran tub, don't you think?

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