Britain could win gold in synchronised moaning

Why were so many people outraged at missing out on London 2012 tickets for sports they don’t even care about?

Duleep Allirajah

Topics Politics

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Beach volleyball. Not a proper sport is it? But it is an Olympic event. Synchronised swimming, too. So, why not moaning? I don’t know whether the British Moaning Federation has done all it can to lobby IOC president Jacques Rogge to include moaning in the Olympic programme, but I think it’s worth a punt. It’s in our interests. After all, the Brits are world beaters at synchronised moaning.

In the past few weeks, the nation has been moaning in unison about Olympic tickets. In short, we’re pissed off because we didn’t get any – a million applicants were left empty handed after the ballot. Those of us who were lucky enough to get tickets are also moaning. Why? Because we didn’t get what we really wanted. We hoped to see the 100metres final and all we got was the preliminary rounds of the monkey tennis. To add insult to injury, ticket holders won’t have priority in the second sales window later this year. And, seeing as we’re in a collective strop, we’re also pretty cheesed off that far too many tickets are reserved for the media, civil servants, IOC bureaucrats, sponsors and corporate hospitality guests.

It’s funny how quickly we’ve changed our tune about the Olympics. Ever since London won the right to host the 2012 Games, the Brits have been moaning. It shouldn’t have been in London, it’s too expensive, council-tax payers are footing the bill, and so on ad nauseam. Now we’re moaning that we can’t come to the party.

What are we to make of this extraordinary national moanathon? Well I can certainly share people’s frustrations. I’m not an actuary or a gambler so I really had no idea how many tickets I ought to apply for. In the end I went for a relatively conservative application worth a potential £1,350. Like many of the 1.8million applicants, I diligently checked my bank account each day in the hope that large – but not too large – sums of money might have been withdrawn. I was initially thrilled when £125 was deducted. However, I soon worked out that this meant no athletics or swimming tickets. I still don’t know what I’ve actually got, but I reckon it’s probably a football preliminary round and tennis – neither of which I regard as proper Olympic events.

So, plenty of reasons not to be cheerful, but I refuse to take part in this pathetic festival of whinging. Why? It’s quite simple really. Just because London is hosting the 2012 Games, it doesn’t mean we’re all entitled to Olympic tickets. It’s not an Englishman’s birthright to see the 100metres final. The demand for tickets far outstripped supply – 20million ticket applications were made for 6.6million tickets – of which around five million have been sold. Ergo, large numbers of people were bound to lose out.

Could the 2012 Organising Committee (Locog) have devised a fairer and less confusing way of allocating tickets? I’m struggling to think of one. A first-come, first-served free-for-all would have been a nightmare. A random ballot seems a pretty fair way of allocating tickets to me. Welsh Labour MP Kevin Brennan believes that the ticketing website was far too confusing for applicants. ‘It was ludicrous on the UK site because you could apply for a whole bunch of tickets but you had to have a professorship in games theory to work out what was the best strategy to choose which tickets.’ Could the application process have been improved? Perhaps. Maybe it would have been more helpful if the number of tickets in each price band was advertised. Or maybe not. The events most oversubscribed were, unsurprisingly, the blue-riband track-and-field finals. Even if we could have calculated our likelihood of getting tickets for these prestige events, most of us would have still ended up empty handed.

What about all the tickets reserved for official sponsors and corporate hospitality guests? ‘City fat cats emerged victorious in the battle for Olympics tickets yesterday as organisers admitted that less than half the seats at showpiece events are earmarked for the public’, thundered the Daily Mail.

It’s certainly true that, in some of the blue-riband athletics events, the number of tickets available in the public ballot is 50 per cent or less of the stadium capacity. But as the Telegraph’s Jacqui Magnay points out, in a rare sober article about ticket allocation, 75 per cent of all tickets will be sold to the general public and a relatively small percentage will go to champagne-swilling fat cats. And if that’s still too many fat cats for your liking there’s not much point beating up Lord Coe about it. As Owen Gibson pointed out in the Guardian, ‘Locog has to work within the constraints of the International Olympic Committee’s ticket distribution model, under which 12.5 per cent are reserved for sponsors and the so-called “Olympic family”.’

Even with the perfect ticketing system in place, the huge demand for tickets meant that this was effectively a lottery. Even if no tickets were reserved for the corporate jolly brigade, the chances of seeing Usain Bolt going for gold would have been fairly slim. Sometimes you just have to accept that nobody is to blame, that satisfying everyone was impossible. So you didn’t get any tickets for sports you aren’t the slightest bit interested in normally? Bad luck. Deal with it. And please stop moaning.

Duleep Allirajah is spiked’s sports columnist.

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Topics Politics


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