GOLD MEDAL PLAN
How to Score Tickets to the 2012 Summer Olympics
All the inside tips you need to snap up affordable event tickets, book a well-chosen place to stay, and make your way around the host city.
The London Olympic Games don't kick off until July 27th, 2012, but this spring is the time to start your trip planning. Here, we answer the six most frequently asked questions about attending the Games, on everything from purchasing tickets for Olympic events to finding the most convenient and affordable accommodations, booking airfare, and navigating London's public transportation system. The best surprise? Catching all the action in person is a lot more affordable—and a lot less stressful—than you might think. On your marks...
Can I afford to go to the Olympics?
Let's face it—the Olympics aren't cheap. The Games only occur every four years and demand is high. That said, with some careful planning you can keep costs down. To give you an idea of how much to budget, here are the ticket costs for some sample events at their face-value starting prices. Opening and closing ceremony tickets start at $32 and go all the way up to $3,200. Prices vary widely depending on the event—and, more importantly, on when you go.
You can find $32 tickets to all sports during their qualifying or preliminary rounds, but once the events progress to medal rounds, prices start climbing. The cheapest seats to medal-round events run between $48 and $104 each, depending on the sport. Prices for the medal rounds in gymnastics and swimming, for instance, start at $80, while the starting price for medal rounds in tennis are $56 for bronze and $104 for the gold and silver rounds. (Download this PDF for the lowdown on events and prices.)
The good news is that spectators will receive free passes to London's public transportation system, including the Tube and all buses, to use on the day of their ticketed Olympic event. As for flight and accommodation costs, airlines don't release plane ticket prices until about a year before the event, so wait until this summer to check for ballpark costs. Hotel rates are easier to predict: A recent study by the market research firm Rubicon predicts that accommodation prices in London "will more than double" during the Games. That news may not sound promising, but it's good to know up front, so you can factor it into your budget.
How hard is it, exactly, to get tickets?
In a word, it's complicated. There are essentially three different options: You can book them as part of a travel package, enter an official ticket lottery, or buy them from a broker. Read on for details on each option.
(1) Book them as part of a hotel package
Within the U.S., only one company is authorized to sell hotel packages that include guaranteed tickets: CoSport. Rates for its hospitality packages have not yet been announced, but it's expected that the packages will run between two and six nights and include accommodations, breakfasts, management, and other services. Register online now for detailed information on sample hospitality itineraries and costs. CoSport's packages will go on sale on March 30, 2011 (877/457-4647).
(2) Enter a lottery to win individual tickets at face value prices
CoSport, again, is the official ticket source for Americans. Tickets sold through the CoSport website include a small handling fee of 20 percent or less, so keep in mind that they will be more expensive than the prices listed on the official London 2012 website.
You can enter the ticket-request lottery, which will start on March 15, 2011, through CoSport. Applications close by April 22, 2011. Your chances of receiving tickets are just as strong whether you apply early or late during this period.