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Forget ticket hassles – see the London 2012 Olympic Games for free

20/06/2012

ANOTHER Olympics, another scandal. The modern Games has had to deal with its fair share of controversy during its century-long existence.

Bribery, corruption, boycotts, doping and terrorism have all scarred the greatest sporting event in the world and it looks as if London 2012 will be no different.

But while past scandals have involved cash-stuffed envelopes or drug-filled hypodermics, the London Game’s downfall could be due to little bits of rectangular paper.

Ticketing has been the number one concern for organisers since London were handed the Games back in 2005, and the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has been dogged by one controversy after another.

Red flags were first raised when a ballot system for tickets was announced which resulted in two-thirds of applicants ending up empty handed, prompting the fantastic headline on Rowing News: “Britain’s Redgrave Awarded Fewer Olympic Tickets Than Medals”.

The ballot controversy was just the beginning of a series of ticket ‘c–k-up’ stories – admittedly fuelled by the media smelling blood in the water – including the overselling of 10,000 synchronised swimming tickets, search engine Google profiting from illegal ticket adverts and a website malfunction by official online retailer Ticketmaster that halted a highly publicised re-sale of unsold tickets in January.

Arguably the biggest ticketing story broke last week, with news of a plot by hundreds of ruthless babies planning to smuggle themselves into events without a ticket by cleverly attaching themselves to an adult.

Organisers were quick to see through the plan of the sneaky dummy suckers, stating that even babes in arms would need a ticket to attend events with ‘parents’. However human rights groups, unconcerned about enabling youth crime, cried foul and LOCOG was forced into making a reversal on the decision.

The negative press coverage has inevitably led to a perception that Olympic tickets are unobtainable, with a large portion of the British public adopting a ‘why bother?’ attitude towards the Games.

Even Prime Minister David Cameron felt compelled to comment on the issue, telling people to “stop grumbling”.

So what does this mean for the traveller looking to head to London for the Games?

Well, it’s not as bad as it looks. A further 1.3 million tickets will go on sale this English spring (if the website works that is), with more than 120,000 hotel rooms freed up from a block booking due to a lack of demand from media, sponsors and dignitaries.

Whether you have the luck or the bank balance to snap up either is another issue entirely…

Luckily, there are more than enough free events for the humble traveller to sample the sights and sounds of London 2012. Both the women’s and men’s marathon (Women: 5 August, Men: 12 August) and walking (Men’s 20km: 4 August, Men’s 50km & Women’s 20km: 11 August) events taking place on the Mall and parts of central London are free to the public, as is the triathlon (Women: 4 August, Men: 7 August) in Hyde Park.

However, of most interest to flag waving Aussies will be the road race cycling, where medal hopefuls Matt Goss, Stuart O’Grady and Simon Gerrans will be battling it out for a podium spot as they race around large swathes of town.

The scenic Box Hill area will be ticketed but the rest of the course is free for all, with Richmond Park looking like the best bet for great views.

And if you can’t make it to see the events in the flesh, there will be a number of live sites dotted around the country – 22 in all – with big screens and plenty of liquid refreshment to go round.

Again, these are free to get in although there’s a strong possibility your fellow countrymen will shun you if you’re not wearing a Southern Cross bikini top or singlet.
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