Travel Tips

Vancouver 2010 Olympics Blog: Travel Tips on Accommodations, Event Tickets and Lessons Learned

Locations in this article:  Vancouver, Canada

Olympics travelThinking about attending the Winter or Summer Olympics in the future? Theresa Corigliano reports on the lessons learned from months of planning this once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

I have always had luck renting accommodations off vacation Web sites.

Months ago, when I was despondent that I was not going to be able to find anywhere to stay in Vancouver because of the gouging that was going on, I finally decided on what was billed as a two-bedroom luxury condo in a neighborhood near BC Place.

I researched the area as best I could, asked the landlord for some proof of ownership of the apartment, which he sent, and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t be standing at an address that didn’t really exist along with other unsuspecting renters. The landlord and his property manager met us at the building. It was well-tended, very secure—but, was NOT a two-bedroom place. It had one bedroom with a screened-off portion of the living room impersonating a second bedroom.

Don’t miss the Olympics Travel section for tips.

The advertised fireplace did not exist. And in the kitchen, not even a toaster, a coffeemaker or a can opener. In the bathroom, two bath towels and hand towels, and one washcloth. When I protested, the landlord suggested I make a trip to Costco.

I protested again, this time more strongly. He said I misread the ad. I did not, and showed him a copy of it. He sent over the manager with towels and a coffeemaker. This was all disappointing, but also, at this juncture, not easily fixable. Next time—more questions, more pictures of every room, and everything spelled out in writing.

Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden in Vancouver- photo by Seth GrantAs for the ticket situation, Peter Greenberg had suggested to me I take my chances and wait till closer to the Games to buy. A roll of the dice, but he felt, from experience, that rooms and tickets would be released … and he was right.

Maybe I would have had to deal with scalpers, and maybe I would not have been able to pick my events, but between Craig’slist and eBay and various agencies, there were many tickets available, as Peter had predicted. And as the Games neared, the prices dropped. Policemen told us selling tickets on the street was not illegal, but not protected. Again, take your chances.

I had bought my first round of tickets through CoSport, an authorized re-seller of tickets for the Games. Of course, they charge you for the privilege, but it is somewhere around 10-15 percent. I paid approximately $1,265 for an Opening Ceremony ticket, and the face was $1,100. OK, I get that. They are in business to make a profit, and I was willing to pay that price because unauthorized re-sellers were charging much more.

Learn more with this article: Olympics Travel Planning.

I had complained to CoSport about my Opening Ceremony Category A seat location (you buy by category, but blind to the exact seat and section). We were in the upper deck, which I felt could only be considered top ducat if I were, in fact, going to be lighting the Olympic flame.

VANOC logoCo-Sport agreed to try and remedy the situation. I also challenged VANOC on this Category A designation—I felt it was a complete rip-off, even though an Olympic spokesperson likened the pricing to what is charged on Broadway, where orchestra and front mezzanine are equally priced.

The difference, of course, is considerable, between the overhang in a 60,000-seat arena and an 800-seat theater. I must also add that it was only after I asked Peter and his staff for help that CoSport took my complaint more seriously.

But I was even more upset with tickets I had purchased more easily from a company called Dow Events. I had inquired about their packages at one juncture, and they emailed me down the road when individual tickets became available—not by lottery, not in a Web site feeding frenzy—but you ask, they get.

I can only tell you that I let my excitement prevent me from drilling down on their markup.

Explore Vancouver with: Travel Slideshow: Vancouver 2010 Photos.

It was only when I picked up the tickets that I fully realized they had charged me almost TRIPLE the face value. I was horrified, but you know what?

Vancouver harbor - photo by Seth GrantThis is the one time I let my excitement and the easier access to tickets get the better of me. Dow defended the indefensible by saying they simply marked up the price they had to pay for the tickets— and you know what, they can do that, because there are idiots willing to pay for the convenience. In this case, the only idiot involved was me.

I didn’t do what I always do, which is double and triple check whether something that seems too good to be true actually is.

I have worked toward one day going to the Olympic Games my entire adult life. Before now, it had never been even a remote possibility for me, and I realized that the opportunity may never happen again. I know there are people sitting next to me at these events in similar circumstances, along with the very privileged. Because I am finally able to be here, I know I AM privileged, and I will never discount my blessings.

That being said, it seems a shame to me there is gouging, both official and unofficial, making it nearly impossible for many people to enjoy the Games. There’s a moment when capitalism tips over to greed, and it’s the one sour note in this whole experience.

By Theresa Corigliano for Links: