My Olympic ticket marathon
I have been through a marathon of my own… in order to buy Olympic tickets. Hooray, I’ll be able to enjoy the celebrations. But why does this matter so much to me?
You are probably not aware of my backstory. Well, I live about 2 miles from the Olympic Park. I’ve been so excited since the Olympics were awarded to London. Such a great event, on my doorstep! Amazing! So I was keen to buy tickets, to give my support and share in the experience.
The initial ticket phase was open for a few weeks. I had a quick look and realised I would have to spend quite a long time analysing the events, the session codes, the price ranges, and so on. It would take me a while to sort out. So I allocated the last week of the sale period for working all this out and taking time to make a coherent application. The sale dates were put onto my wall planner so I would be sure to make time for it.
My dad died on the weekend I had set aside. I spent days in a hotel with poor network access, sleeping whenever I got the chance, visiting my dad until he died and then planning a funeral immediately afterwards.
It goes without saying that I missed the deadline to apply for any Olympic tickets.
I was worried. As a wheelchair user, I didn’t think there would be any tickets I could use appearing on ticket exchanges. And all the packages (i.e. hotel plus ticket) would be for those who could use a normal seat. This excluded me.
At this point I wrote to Seb Coe. I explained my excitement about the Olympics being on my doorstep, and my sadness at not having been able to apply for tickets due to my dad’s death – and also my concern that wheelchair user tickets would not be available later on at ticket exchanges. I said I was willing to buy tickets for anything, so long as it was at the Olympic Park in Stratford – I just wanted to be there! To his credit, Lord Coe did reply – but it took him several weeks. The response when it arrived was brief and merely suggested that I go out onto the streets to watch the marathon. Not only was this missing the point (the fact that I live near Stratford) but it was inappropriate – it is difficult to get a wheelchair through crowds and the chances of getting near enough to see the runners, from my low vantage point, would be incredibly slim. Thanks for nothing, Lord Coe!
This really felt unfair. My home is in a zone which will have permit-only parking imposed upon it for the duration of the games. For eleven weeks, we will have restrictions on parking from 8am until 9pm, and it will be difficult if we need to arrange for visits, be it from friends or tradesmen. There will be other issues – not least traffic jams and crowded public transport – and it began to feel to me as if I would have to deal with problems caused by the Olympics, without being able to appreciate the Games in any way.
I was then frustrated as second and third waves of ticket sales were limited to those who had previously applied but been unsuccessful. These were closed to me, as I hadn’t made an initial ticket application. I watched as others excitedly tweeted about their ticket buying success. I saw my dream of attending the Olympics slipping away.
I looked into ticket sales held in other EU countries, but none of these had wheelchair user tickets available, only normal seats. Again, I was excluded. I began to despair.
Today, at last, tickets were on sale to the public. This was my chance! I was frustrated to see that wheelchair users could only purchase through the phonelines – yet we had to call the same phone number as everyone else. Due to disability I usually sleep through the morning, so I set an alarm in order to wake just before phonelines opened. I tried to get through and was told “we are experiencing high call volumes… this call will disconnect shortly”. Why on earth were wheelchair users, who could only buy by phone, forced to compete with the world and its donkey on the main telephone line? The recorded message suggested that you try to buy online instead, a kick in the teeth when I was excluded from doing so!
After an hour manning my phone, I finally managed to get through, following an hour of redial at a cost of goodness-knows-what! Eventually I reached an assistant. I had done my research and knew that the only sports at the Olympic Park which had any ticket availability would be diving, handball, the early basketball heats, and hockey. To my relief, the telephonist told me that there was good availability for wheelchair users across all four events. Wow! I was spoilt for choice – glossing over the fact that my original preferences, for athletics and cycling, were long gone.
I was initially reluctant to consider diving – I enjoy it on TV, but I have a phobia of open water. However, photos of the venue persuaded me that the spectators wouldn’t be too close! I have never been keen on hockey, and only the earliest basketball heats would be at Stratford – and I really wanted to see a medal ceremony. I got thinking. Maybe I could learn to love handball…?
To my delight I was able to buy tickets for the men’s diving (10m platform final). I should be able to see Tom Daley dive for England! Only the more expensive ticket options remained, but surely that was worth paying for a once in a lifetime event? Having secured this, I also bought cheaper tickets for handball earlier in the same day – the bronze medal match. Time to learn about a new sport!
Next, the telephonist asked me if there was anything else I would like. I thought quickly – after all, this was probably my only chance to buy tickets and I didn’t want to let it slip through my fingers. I had previously managed to get a general pass for the Paralympics on one day (providing access to five sports, space permitting) so I had a quick search to see what else would be held on the same day, and found that the evening athletics session had finals in lots of disciplines, and lots of medal ceremonies. Amazingly I could snap up a ticket for that athletics session for just £30!
So at last I have my Olympic and Paralympic tickets. I feel like I deserve a medal just for jumping the hurdles that LOCOG put in front of me to get them! And of course my wallet is much lighter. But does any of that matter? I’m going to the 2012 Olympics, ready to support my country and to enjoy a wonderful spectacle near my home. What a fantastic thing to look forward to.