Travel Tips

London 2012 Insider’s Guide: Finding Unsold Tickets & Unsung Events

Locations in this article:  London, England

The Olympics are in full swing. Now that the fireworks of the Opening Ceremony have come and gone, has London’s overall plan come together? Correspondent Phil Wallace is on the ground at the Games. Find out why a surprising number of seats appear vacant, how to glimpse the Olympic Village without a ticket, and if London transit is working as efficiently as expected.

Greetings from London! I’ll be updating you on the ground from London throughout the first week of these 2012 Olympic Games.

I have to say that I’m having a great time. It sounds corny, but the Olympics truly bring people together from throughout the world, and I’ve gotten a kick out of being around so many different cultures. That being said, I’ve definitely learned a lot of valuable information in a few short days.

Airfares: High & Higher

If you’re going to an Olympics, make sure you buy your plane ticket in advance. And I mean, about a year in advance. I started looking at tickets in November and the cheapest seat I could find was around $1,200 each way. I should have bought right then, but waited until January, when the tickets were more than $1,500 a flight. So that’s more than $3,000 spent on airline tickets.

I flew out on Virgin Atlantic in coach. I’m not sure why Virgin has a reputation for being one of the best airlines. Every time I’ve flown it, I’ve had problems. This time, the flight was brutally uncomfortable and the service was abhorrent.

I would say that Virgin is just Delta with a British accent, but I don’t know if I’d give it that much credit. I guess you get what you pay for – in this case $3,000 being the cheapest flight out to London.

Olympic Tickets: The Imbalance of Supply & Demand

The main story in London has been the problems with the high demand for tickets and the large number of empty seats. To be perfectly honest, the ticket situation has been a nightmare.

If you’re an American citizen who doesn’t have special connections to an athlete, a sponsor, or a sports federation, then there were only two ways that I knew of to get tickets. The first was to sign up for a lottery, which I didn’t win. The second was to go through the only Olympic “authorized ticket reseller” permitted to sell in the U.S., which is a company called CoSport. The anti-scalping laws in the UK are so strict that there is no way to get seats through a site like StubHub, even if you’re willing to pay well over face value (which I am open to doing).

Every nation has one authorized ticket reseller, so several months before the Games I purchased tickets to four events through CoSport – judo, badminton, team handball, and beach volleyball. My general feeling was that I wanted events that were somewhat affordable, fun to watch, and sports that I wouldn’t normally see. For instance I can see basketball in the U.S. all the time, so I didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on it. I naively thought that I could buy more tickets when I actually arrived in London, not fully aware of the impact of the anti-scalping laws here.