Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Olympics Ticket Lottery

Those of us who applied for tickets to the London 2012 Olympic Games found out today whether we'd been allocated any - but not, it must be emphasised, exactly which sports and which days. All you actually know is the amount of money that has been taken from your credit card, for even though the games are still over a year away you must cough up now.

It's fair to say there's been quite a bit of grumbling all the way up to the Mayor of London, Boris, who made a big point of announcing how he's won none (ignoring the fact that as host Mayor he's guaranteed a ring side seat).

Of the 6 tickets I applied for I've won just the one, which judging from the price could be either kayaking or sailing. The popular events of opening / closing ceremonies and 100, 200 and 400 m finals were hugely oversubscribed, though there is the story on the BBC of someone that only applied for 4 tickets to the 100 m final and got them. But that's a story because it is rare .... very, very rare.

To get an idea of the scale that some were prepared to go, one man put in an application for over £ 36,000 pounds worth of tickets, and ended up with a bill for £ 11,000 - but still doesn't know what's he's won.

The way it worked was that over a set time period you could enter your application for tickets to the events you wanted to go to. For those that were oversubscribed - such as the 100 m final, for which a million applications were received - there was a lottery. As most applications were for popular events (er.... ) the result was much disappointment, and as mentioned, a fair amount of grumbling.

Some complained about the complexity - though having some experience in what auction design economists can come up with my feeling is it could have been a lot worse - but where I would agree is that you should be told straight away what you've been allocated. After all it must be the case that some big Olympics 2012 computer does know who has what.

The organisers are playing it slow, saying there'll be a second phase in the weeks ahead which will be first come first serve for the unallocated tickets, so there's no rush. But they are wrong.

What they forget is this thing called the web and another thing called the European Single Market. You'd have thought someone would have told them about it, because there are other sources of tickets other than the UK 2012 Olympics organisation, and anyone with a credit card can go to their web site and because of the European Single Market they can not refuse your business.

While you won't find tickets to the 100m final (alas) you can pick up many other tickets. It would be a lot easier if I knew exactly what I'd won and which day, but given this is a once in a lifetime event its worth having a plan B.

Interestingly my gut feeling on hearing I'd won either sailing or kayaking tickets was to hope its sailing (sorry Bonnie) so just to be on the safe side I got two more tickets to Weymouth. I might even have another look when the second tranche are made available.

The only thing better than having a plan A plus plan B is to have plans A, B and C!

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