Olympic update 10 more ticketing tips (the last ten are here)
1) You can only apply online if your Visa card expires in August or later. This is ridiculous, and potentially incredibly annoying. The Olympic ticketing procedure is so protracted that the Visa card you have now might expire before London 2012 want your money. So they won't let you use it. Visa cards expiring in March 2011, April 2011, May 2011, June 2011 or July 2011 are being refused by the ticketing software. Instead, and I quote, "if your card expires before August 2011 please contact your bank to renew your card." Millions of potential ticket purchasers are likely to give up at the first hurdle. 6pm update: This has now been fixed. Cards which expire in May, June or July will be allowed to apply from next Monday onwards. Cards which expire in March or April will have been replaced before the 26th April ticketing deadline.
2) Your money will be taken before you find out which tickets you've got. It's perverse, but it's true. The ticketing process is so cumbersome and long-winded that London 2012 won't email you before attempting to take your money. They need a full month (10 May to 10 June) to sift through all the applications and work out who's got what. They may even take money for different events at different times - it's not been confirmed that your bank account will be raided only once. Only by 24 June, a fortnight later, do they guarantee you'll have received confirmation by email of which events you'll be attending. But watch out earlier for a telltale twelvepence. If (and only if) the amount withdrawn from your account includes pence as well as pounds then congratulations, you've won a cheap seat for the Opening Ceremony.
3) Keep your bank account topped up for a month. I can't emphasise this one enough. At the moment you apply for tickets, London 2012 will warn you of the maximum amount you could end up paying. Keep this amount of money in your Visa-related account at all times between 10 May and 10 June. On some unspecified unannounced day, London 2012 will attempt to take money from your account, and it could be the maximum. If this transaction fails, you'll get nothing. "If payment cannot be taken, LOCOG reserves the right to refuse any Ticket applications or Ticket orders." Even if you're only £1 short, you'll lose every ticket on your shopping list. It'll be like winning the lottery and then realising you forgot to enter. But how many people can genuinely afford to maintain a ticket-sized bufferzone in their bank account for a full month? I guess we'll start finding out in May when the unlucky "winners" start to complain.
4) There's a £6 ticket-handling charge. Come on, this system is run by Ticketmaster, so what did you expect? The £6 is to pay for registered delivery (and to make a tidy profit, I don't doubt). And don't think of having the tickets delivered to work, or to your auntie, or to your nextdoor neighbour, because that's prohibited. "Tickets will be delivered via secure carrier to the billing address of the Purchaser. Tickets will not be delivered to any other address." If you move house any time between now and summer next year, when the tickets start arriving, then you need to let London 2012 know... or miss out.
5) If you end up with tickets you don't want, you can sell them on. But you can only sell them on via London 2012's official resale site. There are no precise details yet, but this website will give ticket holders the opportunity to sell unwanted tickets "at no more than face value". Don't think of flogging the official bits of paper on eBay or anything, because that's banned. Don't raffle them for charity, because that's banned too. And don't sell them in a public place, because that's a criminal offence. The official resale website will be a "secure environment", ensuring that London 2012 still know who the official purchaser is at all times. But it won't be operational until next year, so you'll have to sit tight on that hole in your bank balance for at least six months.
6) Don't try buying tickets as a gift for someone else. According to the terms and conditions, if you're the one that buys the tickets, you have to be one of the people who uses the tickets. "If more than one Ticket is issued to a Purchaser, those Tickets may only be used by the Purchaser and a family member, friend or colleague who is known to the Purchaser personally and who is intended to accompany the Purchaser to a Session." So if you buy two tickets as a gift for Bob and Carol's wedding anniversary, Bob and Carol may be turned away from the venue for not being you. Will officials really be this strict? Best not to risk finding out.
7) Smile, some events are free. Not every event needs a ticket or a sturdy bank balance. The initial rounds of the archery are free. The cycling road races are free (apart from spectating at the finish). The sailing in Weymouth harbour is free (unless you want to sit in what's normally a public park beside a video screen). And then of course there are the two marathons, which you can watch for free from my front doorstep (except, bugger, sigh, grrr).
8) Get a brochure. If you're serious about planning your Olympic experience carefully, don't try to do it all online. Negotiating umpteen pdfs or interactive schedules isn't easy, and makes it incredibly hard to gain an overview of what's available when. Instead pop into your nearest branch of Lloyds TSB and pick up a copy of the official ticketing brochure. It's massive - a full 70 pages on thick glossy paper (but then it was paid for by bankers and they have money to burn). No need to queue or anything, the brochures are lying around ready to take. Then you can scan through the entire schedule at your own pace, ticking off possibles and definites, and optimise your application. Makes a nice souvenir too, if you're that way inclined.
9) Read the Terms and Conditions. Nobody ever reads the terms and conditions. But this time you really should, in case you find yourself agreeing to something you didn't think you were agreeing too. The terms and conditions aren't very easy to find on the website, at least up front, but do hunt them down all the same. Things like "LOCOG cannot guarantee adjacent seats if separate Ticket Application Forms are submitted." And "if a Ticket Holder leaves a Venue for any reason, the same Ticket may not be used to re-enter a Venue." And "upon request, a Ticket Holder must show their Tickets and/or proof of his or her identity with appropriate Photographic Identification." Worth knowing in advance, I think.
10) You can only apply once, so don't rush it. My brother's already submitted his application form online. By lunchtime yesterday he'd requested four tickets for the Opening Ceremony (the cheap £20.12 ones) and nothing else. So that's it. "Once submitted, a Person may not be able to alter, amend, withdraw or cancel an application." Given how horribly oversubscribed those £20.12 tickets are going to be, my brother's not going to be going to the Olympics at all. He can't apply a second time, either online or on paper, because the rules forbid it. "A Person may only submit one (1) Ticket Application Form." So please, don't rush your application. You've got until 23:59 on Tuesday 26th April to apply, so take your time picking and choosing. (Don't worry little bruv, because there is an option to withdraw your application, any time up to 26th April, and tweak it and apply again. But come 27th April your application is set in stone, and there's no going back)