Travel Tips

Olympics 2010: Travel Planning for Vancouver

Locations in this article:  Sydney, Australia Vancouver, Canada

Olympic ringsNow that Beijing Olympic fever has subsided, you may find yourself suffering from a severe case of Olympic burnout.

Symptoms include feelings of fatigue and dizziness when the name “Michael Phelps” is mentioned, along with a sharp pain in the ears whenever the Olympics theme music is heard on the television.

But if you want to attend the next Olympics, don’t wait for your enthusiasm to return, or it may be too late. 2010 sounds awfully far off, but the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada are fewer than 500 days away—and the first phase of 2010 Vancouver Olympic tickets went on sale last Friday!
Yes, the “request phase” for Winter Olympics tickets started on October 3, 2008 through CoSport, the official U.S. ticket agent for the Vancouver Games (and previously, the Beijing Games).

CoSport is the only company licensed by the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) to sell tickets to American citizens. CoSport can also arrange accommodation packages for those headed to the Games. Here’s how it works:

Starting October 3, the company began taking pre-sale ticket requests online. If you know what event(s) you want to attend, you can go to the CoSport Web site at and fill out a form that tells them what event you want on what day, and in what quantity.

After about a month, the company will assess how many requests they’ve received versus the actual number of tickets available for each event. If there are enough tickets to cover all the requests, everyone will get a ticket. However, if there are more requests than tickets, the requests will go into a lottery system and tickets will be awarded at random. You’ll either get all—or none—of the seats you requested.

CoSport’s second sales phase will begin sometime in the spring of 2009. At that point whatever tickets are left over from the first phase—plus any new ones that may have been released—will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Take note that since CoSport is a ticket broker, it buys the tickets up front and assumes the risk that they may not be sold—so prices are going to be higher for Americans than their Canadian counterparts, who can buy tickets directly from the Olympics Committee.

Oh CanadaTranslation? If you have cousins up north, you may want to check in with them.

CoSport sales manager Mike Cucci says that the company prefers for customers to buy their tickets through the Web site, but it is possible to buy them over the phone.

Cucci wouldn’t say how many tickets are allocated to Americans (versus Canadians or other nationalities), but he did note that the most popular events at the Winter Games are the opening and closing ceremonies, hockey, and the finals of just about any event. So if you want tickets for these events, act fast.

Once you buy your tickets, they can either be mailed to a U.S. postal address, or they can be picked up at the will call window on the day of the event. Will call customers must provide evidence of U.S. citizenship.

Accommodation and hospitality packages can also be arranged by CoSport, which doubles as a travel agent. In addition to event tickets, the packages include hotels, airport meet-and-greet services, meals, ground transportation and host services. Packages do not include airfare or other forms of transport to and from Vancouver.

Of course, you can always book your own stay, but Cucci warns that travelers should start looking right away because rooms are going to book up fast. However, if history is any guide, this fear may be unfounded. “Booked rooms” is different than “blocked rooms,” and when large corporate groups don’t show up for the Games, those hotel rooms get released, fast.

And, keep in mind that Olympic cities almost always overbuild: Bejing saw fewer than 80 percent occupancy during the Games, and became a near-ghost town immediately following the Closing Ceremonies. In fact, Sydney, Athens and Atlanta are still trying to fill rooms from their Olympic heydays.

Cucci also warns travelers to beware of online ticket scammers such as those that bilked dozens of Americans out of their money before the Beijing Games.

Vancouver’s Stanley Park“Tickets can be bought from scalpers, but you are not guaranteed to actually receive them,” he said. “It’s best to purchase through an authorized seller only.” (In this case, CoSport is the only authorized ticket seller for Americans.)

CoSport does not offer refunds if you change your mind about attending an event, but you can sell your tickets to a friend (or a stranger, for that matter) as long as it’s not for profit. CoSport reserves the right to cancel tickets if the company finds out that they have been resold commercially for profit.

VANOC is somewhat coy about the total number of tickets that will be available to average members of the public, as opposed to sponsors, family members and VIPs. A press release on the VANOC Web site hints that it may offer more tickets than were available in Beijing, where hundreds of seats went empty at many events.

“Beijing 2008 has been a highly valuable learning experience for our team, especially in the areas of ticketing and the spectator experience,” the press release reads. “VANOC … is therefore continuing to work on programs intended to make sure that the maximum amount of tickets are in the hands of people who can use them.”

Apparently this also includes an authorized resale and exchange system for tickets, though no specifics on the program were given.

And unlike at the Beijing Olympics, there will be no rules or deadlines in effect with regard to transferring tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies.

In Beijing, International Olympics Committee rules aimed at preventing scalping allowed these coveted tickets to be transferred to a new owner only once, with identification required at the time of transfer. The system was unwieldy and not overly successful, so it was scrapped this time around.


By Karen Elowitt for

Vancouver is a great destination in its own right, so check out our take in the Off the Brochure Travel Guide to Vancouver, Canada.

Did the Beijing Olympics inspire you to visit China? Don’t miss our Comprehensive Travel Guide to the Olympics, China and Beijing.

Or visit our newest section, The Olympics: Beijing 2008 to Vancouver 2010.