So I went to the Olympics. Yes I was a little behind the times but I got caught up in the excitement and I wanted to go, especially as there were so many free seats being shown on the TV. Rumours told me that they were releasing more of the seats and that you could get hold of tickets for some of the events on the website so I went to look.
For a website that's supposed to be accessible to all, to make it fair, the London 2012 ticket website was one of the most confusing I've been on. In order to do anything ticket related you need an account where you have to specify which sports you would be interested in seeing. Fortunately I had signed up for this before but I did not use it when the ticket lottery opened. After logging in I decided to search for some tickets. Despite having a large number of options available I was unable to search for all events with availability and had to search manually for specific events to see if they had tickets. This may have been a bug as I was later successfully able to search for all available Paralympic tickets by putting the relevant dates in. When you search it will show up with events with availability and tell you how many tickets you are allowed to book for each event and which price brackets are still available. One would assume that this means you'll then be able to go and buy tickets for that event. Wrong. That will then take you to another screen where you add them to your basket and then you have to click the click the 'check availability' button where it will search for any tickets in the event it has already told you there is availability for. 90% of the time it then says there are no tickets available. If then, if there are no tickets available, why did the website say there were tickets available before? Not content with that I redid my search and found the same event, telling me there were tickets available and yet when you click a bit more, there were not any.
Unhappy with this and also rather confused I decided to call the ticket people on the number given on the website. Alas this was unsuccessful as I was greeted by an automated voice that told me information I didn't want to know, thanked me for calling and then disconnected me. Thinking this was just an error I tried again to get the exact same result. So much for accessibility...
Eventually I managed to find some available tickets. £110 for women's basketball, bronze match. We decided to buy them because Olympic fever had hit us and we just wanted to go and see something. At the checkout it asked us if we wanted the tickets to be sent out to us for £6 or if we wanted to collect them. Having just spent £220 and knowing that we would be spending a lot on train tickets to get there we figured that we'd save £6. Bad move. As I was dutifully informed later ticket holders get a gamescard for their day at the Olympics which gives them free transport across London. The only problem with this is that the gamescard comes with the tickets... Obviously by not having them posted out (we didn't buy them long before the event and thought with how dodgy our post can be that it would be safer to collect) we didn't manage to get our gamescard until we arrived at North Greenwich Arena (formerly 02, formerly the Dome). By this time we'd already bought day travelcards to get across London to get to the Dome.
At no point when we were actually buying our tickets did the website say anything about this gamescard. Searching now I have managed to find a small amount about it on a page with lots of writing that to be honest really isn't that easy to read. It's not set out well and you pretty much have to read EVERYTHING in order to find it and work out what on earth it is.
This is the list of options you're able to click on.
- Getting to the venues
- General advice about travelling during the Games
- Travelling in London during the Games
- Travelling to co-Host City and out of London venues
- Journey times
It's probably a pretty good page for those outside of the UK but for anyone in the UK you pretty much know where things are if you know anything about London and you'll also know roughly which of the venues are in London, not that this was that easy to work out either - it was much easier to find the location of the venues from the London 2012 official website rather than the ticket website.
So far, not so good. Still, the rest of the websites were much better and I managed to read what I needed to and knew what I was/wasn't allowed to take in and I got a map for the venue. I planned well and took what I needed in a bag that would fit under my seat (harder than it looks!) and travelled down to London on the train. After 2.5hrs on a packed London Midland train I arrived at Euston, bought a day travelcard and went for a bit of a wander. We walked part of one of the discovery routes on the south bank which was great fun finding the Wenlocks. Okay you're supposed to be looking at the things you see on the route, which we did, but the Wenlocks are fun! The whole of the discovery route was fun actually. Must go and do more of those.
We found some of the International Houses too - Casa Brasil, Swiss House and, when we got to the Arena, Jamaica House! Jamaica House was great fun and the people were really lovely and I'm really annoyed that I didn't buy more from there. We bought the others Jamaican pencils (which I must take a picture of) and now all I have left is a bag that says I shopped at Jamaica House 2012 (which is awesome) but it's now crinkled as I had to put it in my bag to stop myself from losing it when I went in to watch the Basketball.
Security at North Greenwich Arena was alright because we were prepared, unlike the lady in front of us who tried to take in two large bottles of water and didn't understand that she couldn't because they were full... The Gamesmakers were absolutely lovely even though half of them looked bored a lot of the time (which you can understand when they weren't doing anything). The lack of event memorabilia was slightly disappointing and some of it seemed hugely overpriced. I may have bought more if it had been cheaper. I did manage to get my gold Wenlock though which made me absurdly happy. Just need a gold Mandeville now to complete the set...
The event itself wasn't bad. We had pretty decent seats in the arena and the match was interesting even if I didn't particularly understand Basketball. The atmosphere wasn't bad either and we had one of the loudest non Russian Russian fans just behind us in our section. Two Irishmen had gone to the match (Australia vs Russian Federation as it turned out) and one said they'd support Australia, the other Russia. By the end of the match the one supporting Russia had pretty much converted everyone else to supporting Russia as well (though we were fair overall in our section, applauding both teams), even his friend who was supposed to be supporting Australia. Infamous quotes of this man (when Russia weren't doing that well) were 'stop scoring!' as well as things like 'go number 5', 'I love you Russia, marry me!' and many more along the same lines. Honestly that one man made the day. He had everyone laughing (in a good way) and really lifted everyone, many of whom had basically done what we did and weren't particularly bothered who won. Thank you Mr Irishman.
That said, I'm not sure it was worth the money we paid. Sure it was great to go and be at the Olympics but I can't help wondering that if they'd lowered the upper prices they might have got more people there. We had whole sections in the arena that were basically empty and only had a handful of Gamesmakers in them. Equally, if they'd done something a little like the Wimbledon queue to sell off empty seats on the day that might have been better. In our event even the majority of the large media section was empty which was really disappointing to see. In comparison the men's game that I watched on the BBC Red Button the day later was pretty much sold out and the media section was full.
Still, overall it was a great experience to go to the Olympics. Now I just need to return to London and go Wenlock hunting before I head to the Paralympics. Yes, before you ask, we did get the tickets posted out for this and they've also sent us leaflets about the sports and some lovely maps. Could have done with that before but didn't get anything like that from the Olympic stuff... More fool me or bad planning on their part? I'll leave that up to you but my guess is it's probably a bit of both.
Bring on Rio! :D