After booking my flight using Delta miles and getting a killer rate for my hotel stay, it was time for what I imagined to be the toughest part of the trip planning process, finding reasonably priced tickets to the events. As I arrived after the swimming events were completed, I decided I wanted to see Athletics (Track & Field), Basketball, Diving, Synchronized Swimming, and Volleyball. Tickets had been on sale since May 23rd so I was starting my search about 2 1/2 months late, though I was hoping for the best.
The official website for the London 2012 Games, divides buyers into three groups:
- Residents of the UK – Allowed to use the official website to obtain tickets.
- Residents of designated European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc) – Also allowed to use the official website to obtain tickets.
- Residents outside the UK or designated European countries – If you are not a resident of the UK or a designated European country, regardless of citizenship, you will need to apply for tickets via your National Olympic Committee (NOC) or NPCs may appoint an Authorised Ticket Reseller (ATR) in order to help the general public obtain tickets and services relating to the London 2012 Olympic Games.
As a US resident I was unfortunately relegated to the final group and was not eligible to purchase tickets on the London 2012 ticketing site. Instead the US Olympic Committee had engaged the ticketing services of CoSport who had extremely limited availability, tickets were all priced at £ 295 ($461 per ticket) or higher, completely out of question. They were also the designated ticketing representative for several other non European countries and were having major problems in terms of confirming orders and actually getting the tickets to purchasers. I spoke to a few other bloggers who used their services and paid the $461 or more per ticket but that seemed a little crazy to me. The Olympic Committee had designated a 5 tier pricing system for events that generally listed prices as:
Qualifying / Quarter / and some Semi-Final Events
£150.00 – A
£95.00 – B
£65.00 – C
£40.00 – D
£20.00 – E
Some Semi-Final, Basketball & Final Events (Medal Ceremonies)
£450.00 – A
£295.00 – B
£150.00 – C
£95.00 – D
£50.00 – E
Ticket brokers were charging way over the designated prices, though I still stuck to my goal of obtaining face value category C-E events. Here’s how I got them:
- eBay – Completely overlooked by most as it was illegal to resell tickets to the Olympics within the UK, EBAY’s UK and European websites actually restricted local users from using the Buy It Now feature for any Olympic tickets. Good news for the non-Europeans! I immediately found face value tickets priced in USD for sale by US residents who were no longer able to attend. Better yet, you could make a best offer below the listed face value price. Using EBAY I scored a Synchronized Swimming category B ticket for $120 (about $30 below face value), Athletics category C ticket for $109 ($7 above face value), and two Basketball quarter-final category E tickets for $220 ($44 above face but with a very high probability of the USA Dream Team playing…which I was lucky enough to see last night). All in I spent $21 above face value on my EBAY purchases, was able to use PayPal to guarantee protection, used a credit card to earn points, and got delivery straight from the US to my US address. I was also excited that the Athletics and Synch Swimming tickets would guarantee me admission to the Olympic Park, with Athletics gaining access to the Olympic Stadium and Swimming getting me into the Aquatic Center.
- The Official Site – The official London 2012 ticketing site had been sold out for months but seemed to be continuously releasing returned tickets and VIP seats that were previously held back. During my tracking of the website, I saw multiple times per day where tickets were becoming available. I contacted the hotel concierge to see if they had any access to tickets from the London website and whether they would be willing to purchase them on my behalf. They suggested that I simply register for the website using the hotel address as my home address. Definitely not in the spirit of the ticketing website rules, I gave it a shot and within a few moments I was officially registered and able to search for tickets. Tickets could only be purchased using VISA, the official sponsor of the games, which was great for my Chase Sapphire usage. The most tickets seemed to be released at 7pm EST or 12am in London each night. That first day I pulled semi-final category D Women’s Volleyball tickets which will end up being today’s USA v Korea match. The site was maintained by Ticketmaster, which meant it was a disaster! Once a ticket is released you can select to put it into your cart, however unlike the normal Ticketmaster site, this does not remove it from inventory and thousands of other users are probably also pulling the same ticket. After waiting 15-20 minutes, you’d receive a message that the ticket was no longer available. It was a frustrating process but in the end I was able to secure three tickets using this method. Upon arrival in London I pulled a cheap Athletics and Synchronized Swimming ticket. Better yet, you could choose to print e-tickets which meant there was no concern with shipping to the hotel. I received PDF files for all three ticket purchases.
- Trading/Swapping via Craigslist – I used the category D Synch Swim ticket my first day and while it was interesting to see, I knew I didn’t need to attend the event a second time later in the week. I posted it on Craigslist asking to swap for a diving ticket in a similar category. I received responses right away and agreed to a deal which would get me into the 6th row for Diving! I also had a second basketball ticket that I was able to swap for an upgraded Athletics ticket. Meeting individuals from Craigslist is never the most ideal situation, though these individuals were both visiting from the US as well and one was even staying in the same hotel. The other ended up living across the street from me in New York. Both tickets were used this week with no problems.
The events have been fantastic and I’m having a great time. Yesterday was a very tight schedule – Met with Nadia Comeaneci & Bart Conner care of the Chase VIP lounge, attended Diving, and then saw Team USA Basketball take on Australia. I’ll have a full summary of the events, the Chase VIP Lounge, and some of my favorite London moments so far in future posts. I even scored an invite to Club France, the French Olympic House, which included a full course served dinner (Chef travels with the Olympic Committee), open bar, great wine and champagne, amazing French desserts, a DJ party, and bottle service with the French athletes. More on all of these later… off to Volleyball and a Chase Meet & Greet with Greg Louganis.