London 2012 (07.30.2012) – Filling Those Empty Seats

Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, left, after losing to the French in the men’s 400-meter relay.

A role reversal last night for the US 4x100m freestyle team as France claimed revenge and edged the Americans out in last night’s final at the Aquatic Centre.

Cheers from within the NBC compound at the IBC slowly hushed to a silence as we all watched the race unfold live to its closing moments. It didn’t exactly boost morale of the reporters/producers/technicians who are supposed to remain unbiased.

But that’s the thing about the Olympics: you’re never really unbiased and deep inside, you want your country to win. And at times, it’s okay to to let that out.

I just wonder what it was like for Foxtel/Nine Australia down the hall of the IBC as the Aussies failed to make the podium. James Magnussen and the relay team were the favorites in the race.

Other headlines that people are talking about today:

– Britain wins their first medals of the Games. Lizzie Armitstead claimed silver in a thrilling finish of the women’s cycling road race while Rebecca Adlington won bronze in the women’s 400m freestyle 

– USA’s Kim Rhode won gold in the women’s skeet shooting competition.

– And that was just last night’s action. Today, the first medals were awarded in artistic gymnastics at North Greenwich Arena.  Watch as Britain wins bronze in the men’s team final, then get the silver medal. Just kidding though, as Japan’s protest is upheld and the British gets bumped back down to bronze.

– Also today, a South Korean fencer sat on the piste for over an hour in protest, staging the biggest controversy of the games so far.

I’ve Got the Golden (er, Recycled) Ticket

Today was my last day working the 8am-8pm shift at Sports Desk (which ended up becoming the 10am-10pm shift since there was little to log in the morning). So I made the most of what would be the last time I’d be able to get out of work while there was still Olympic competition happening. I decided to take a walk around Olympic Park for the first time since the Games began.

What I really wanted to do was attend an event. Already I’ve made jealous stares at some of the interns who have already been able to attend marquee events such as swimming and beach volleyball. I just wanted to go to any event. It could have been gymnastics qualifying or even team handball.

Adding to the frustration are the reports of empty seats across all the venues of London 2012. Londoners have been applying for tickets for over a year and many were denied tickets during the long application process. So for there to be areas of empty seats when the London 2012 website claims that events have sold out did not bode well with those looking for tickets, or for people like me who desperately wanted to go to an event.

Nothing I could really do about it right now though. All I could do was enjoy the fact that I was lucky to be even in London during the Olympics, working for America’s network for the Olympics. Take in the moment and be happy in it.

And take some pictures of course. This one is my favorite.

The Olympic Rings bask in the sunset at Olympic Park.

I decide to walk towards Olympic Stadium and long and behold, I find a pink kiosk that says “Ticket Box Office”. Maybe I can buy a ticket and achieve my dream of attending an Olympic event?

Nope. The windows at the box office are for “Ticket Collection Only” and Games Makers stand at the entrance of the line acting as guardsmen turning away visitors who had hoped to buy a ticket.

But alas, there’s hope. The Games Makers talk of the possibility of buying “recycled” tickets for sessions that have two games occurring. Those wishing to see an event may have a chance to do so by going to the other box office located between the velodrome and the Basketball Arena.

I’m intrigued by the idea and without hesitation, make my way to the area on the other side of the river (an area which I had already passed by on my walk through Olympic Park). I was optimistic, until I saw a long queue (British for “line”) outside this Ticket Kiosk, which looked like the pink one was just at, except this time painted in orange.

Knowing I had nothing else to do, I decide to stand in line and give it a shot. The line snaked around from the windows, about three or four deep, and then went another 20 yards near some picnic benches, around a tree and then another 10 yards. I’d estimate there were at least 50 people ahead of me in line, if not 100.

A Games Maker provided more information about how this whole ticketing process would work. Basically, when spectators leave the Basketball Arena after the first game, they would scan their ticket, telling computers that a seat was available since they are not allowed re-entry once they leave. Visitors outside the arena can then buy that ticket for a reduced cost, which I learned later was only £5.

The game happening at that moment was a women’s match-up between Great Britain and Canada, which means there were a lot of people already there and not many empty seats to begin with. Making things more complicated was the fact that the following game, the one we were queuing to get tickets to, featured the US women’s team against Angola. The Games Maker who gave us the info said that the likelihood of landing tickets wasn’t very high because a lot of spectators would want to stay to watch the US women play.

That didn’t deter me though from staying in line. I stood behind a couple and a group of ladies that weren’t afraid to have anyone overhear their conversation, aka they were relatively loud. Behind me stood a family of three that eventually left the line as the sun went down and temperatures started to cool down to a point where you needed that light jacket. Replacing them was a group of lads, happily drinking beer and wondering if they would even get tickets.

We were all wondering the same thing.

I stood in line for about an hour before the line actually began moving at a steady pace. The whole time there was this level of uncertainty about whether we’d get tickets or not. As I got closer and closer to the ticket window, I had hope, but at the same time I embraced for the moment that there would be no more tickets. Meanwhile, you could hear the fans roar as the game featuring Team GB came to an end.

The view from the queue of the Basketball Arena.

I got to the point where the line snakes back and forth and there were only a handful of people in front of me. The queue was moving at a quicker pace and I could get the sense that I was finally going to be able to go to an event. I see people, including a family from the United States, get super excited that they finally got their hands on a ticket to something.

Front of the line. I’m almost certain that I will be able to get in. I get to the window. “Ticket for one.” Yup, just me. Who else would be crazy enough to stand with me to go to a women’s basketball game (besides the many who are in front of and behind me in line)?

With the exchange of just five quid, I have a ticket.

The ticket to my first ever Olympic event.

I walk in, but not before the ticket scanners had some fun with me. Since it’s a recycled ticket, when you scan it, it doesn’t read properly. The guy gives me a hard time for about two seconds, during which I have a moment of WTF. His colleague tells me to walk through and then they make fun of me for not having a sense of humor. As I walk past them, I yell back, “Well, I’m laughing now.”

In reality, I just think they’re a**holes. But who cares? After years of obsessing about the Olympics, I finally take my seat at an Olympic event.

(to be continued…)

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