The frustrating process of buying tickets for the London 2012 Olympics has led many Brits to seek their tickets elsewhere, in at least one case with disastrous results.
Ever resourceful, British fans recently found a way into a purchasing site meant primarily for foreign countries with the aim of securing Olympics tickets. Sportsworld, a British-based company authorized by the London Olympic Organizing Committee (LOCOG) to sell to Denmark and a number of Pacific islands, was inundated with requests this weekend after the Sunday Times let readers in on a loophole in the purchasing requirements. The barrage of requests crashed the Sportsworld site, because as European citizens, UK fans can legally purchase from sites selling to other countries in the European Union. Sportsworld and other sites have tickets to sell on a first come, first served basis, meaning that UK fans purchasing from the site were assured of the tickets they bought without having to risk the lottery situation at the LOCOG site.
The situation is the latest black eye for the 2012 summer games, which has experienced other mishaps and a revolt by hoteliers over ticket/room package rates.
In March and April of this year, LOCOG allowed UK citizens to apply for the 2012 tickets they desired, with no guarantee that the tickets they applied for will be theirs. Reports are that 1.8 million visitors to LOCOG’s ticket purchasing site made over 20 million requests for only 6.6 million tickets, with over 50 percent of the sessions overbooked. Successful ticket purchasers for these oversubscribed sessions were determined by lottery following the April 26 sales closing date, but winners have not yet been notified. Considering the significant interest in these tickets, there are sure to be a number of disappointed fans who won’t be able to see their fellow Brits compete in the Games.
Following the crash, Sportsworld was forced to stop taking orders. By Monday, May 23, interested fans found the following announcement when they clicked on Sportsworld’s Online Ticket Request link: “We are currently reviewing existing ticket orders and as a result there are no London 2012 Olympic Games tickets available. If you would like to be kept informed about our London 2012 Olympic Games tickets please fill out our enquiry form or follow us (on twitter).”
That announcement remains up on the site today, May 26, and a spokesperson for Sportsworld, quoted this week in the Oxford Mail, was equally non-committal: “Once [ticket requests] have been reviewed and if there are tickets left over I’m sure things will be up and running again.”
Fan interest in tickets remains high, even with some tickets going for the highest prices in Olympic history. The lowest regular-priced (non-senior and non-junior) seats at the 2012 Games will be £20 ($32), while a majority of tickets sold in China for the 2008 Beijing Games went for $12.75 and under. Prices for the 2012 Opening Ceremonies top off at £2, 012 ($3243), and Closing Ceremonies at around £1,495, or $2410.
Those fans who used LOCOG’s system and are waiting patiently to learn which tickets they bought will have to wait a while longer. Those who applied through the official ticket site will not know if they have been successful in obtaining the tickets they want until June 24, though LOCOG has announced that 60 percent of orders will have been processed through purchasers’ credit accounts by this week. This leaves applicants with an interesting situation, that of having paid money for tickets they can’t identify.
Those who paid for their tickets by check face a more complicated situation, as LOCOG will cash their check for the entire amount and provide the tickets won in the process, but they will not see any refunds of unused money until the end of July. In addition, once tickets are received, those fans who are left with more tickets than they wanted or can afford will have to sit with them until next year, when LOCOG plans to launch their authorized ticket exchange site. This is the only avenue remaining to fans with excess tickets, since resale of Olympics tickets is illegal in the UK by all but authorized resellers.
Within hours of the March 15 launch of LOCOG’s ticketing site, fans reported problems in purchasing. Those whose VISA cards expire before August of this year found that they were prevented from buying tickets at the site. VISA soon put out a statement announcing that fans holding cards expiring from May 2011 onward would be able to purchase again within days, but those unlucky enough to have April expiration dates were permanently locked out of the process and were forced to wait until VISA issued their new cards that month, theoretically before the April 26 sales closing date.
Another less disruptive, but equally embarrassing, problem occurred within hours of the ticket site’s launch. LOCOG’s Omega-designed Olympic Countdown Clock in London’s Trafalgar Square, unveiled on the evening of March 14, failed and stalled the next day. Built to track the number of days until the July 27, 2012, Opening Ceremonies, the clock was stopped at 500 days, 7 hours, 6 minutes and 56 seconds for several hours on March 15. By that evening, workers had fixed and restarted the clock, with no further problems noted.
Add to this the initial complaints from critics about this being one of the most expensive Olympics ever, and one might say that this has already been a bumpy road to the London Olympic Games.