London 2012 (08.05.2012) – The Battle For Tickets: Human vs. Internet

A Return of Breakfast At Wimbledon

Two events stick out to me from Day 9 of London 2012. One was the men’s 100m final, which is always an event to look forward to at an Olympic Games. More on that later.

But earlier today was the men’s singles final in tennis. NBC was heavily promoting this weekend’s tennis finals and it brought back memories of Breakfast at Wimbledon, which had been a staple of NBC Sports programming until this year.

I was heartbroken when I learned that the broadcast network had lost Wimbledon rights to the Worldwide Leader. NBC and Wimbledon had been a relationship longer than most Hollywood couples. I understood why, as I was like many viewers who were frustrated with tape-delayed coverage over the years. But when it came to the championship matches, it was a great tradition to have it on NBC.

The fact that the tennis competition was taking place at Wimbledon meant that NBC could bring that same kind of coverage again for the Olympic finals. And that’s exactly what they did.

First, they brought in Ted Robinson to call both final matches, along with Mary Carillo to color commentate the women’s final and John McEnroe for the men’s final, Al Michaels hosted coverage for the All-England Club.

It helped that the finals were scheduled for 2PM local time, 9AM Eastern Time, which was exactly when Breakfast at Wimbledon would start during championship weekend. And the matchups were mouth-watering (on paper at least). Yesterday, Serena Williams defeated Maria Sharapova handily.

And this afternoon was a rematch of this year’s Wimbledon final, with Andy Murray given a second chance to win at Wimbledon, taking on the man that won the fortnight four weeks prior, Roger Federer. Get the strawberries and cream ready.

Watch the full replay of the final here. 

“Every man has his moment. Andy Murray has finally found his,” Robinson said as Murray climbed his way to give his family a hug.

It may not have been Wimbledon or a grand slam. But it was Olympic gold, and on one of the most hallowed grounds in tennis, not to mention on home soil.

I’m glad that NBC dedicated network coverage to this. I don’t recall the last time NBC put Olympic tennis on the broadcast network (it was on USA Network for both Beijing and Athens). I don’t think the sport would have gotten as much attention as it did if it were held somewhere other than Wimbledon, which makes me hold my breath for the same kind of coverage for the finals in Rio four years from now.

But for now, I cherished the brief return of Breakfast at Wimbledon.

Halfway Point

Halfway done.

Hard to believe but the games were halfway over. Swimming has concluded at the Aquatics Centre and we’re down to the event finals in artistic gymnastics. Some sports were completely done, like tennis, judo and badminton. But others were just getting started (wrestling, synchronized swimming) or have yet to begin (BMX cycling, rhythmic gymnastics).

It was Day 3 at the track and it was time to find out who is the world’s fastest man. The men’s 100m final had many intriguing storylines. My favorite was that of Justin Gatlin, who won back in Athens eight years ago. He was then found guilty of doping later in his career, but he did his time and is now back in the final here in London.

There’s the story of Yohan Blake, the defending world champion who won in Daegu, Korea after Usain Bolt was disqualified following a false start. Blake defeated Bolt in the Jamaican Trials earlier this year.

The question on many minds was can Bolt overcome all the doubters and prove he can again be the fastest man in the world?

Watch the men’s 100m final here. NBC feed here.

Clicking For Tickets

I wrote earlier during the games about how difficult (and frustrating) it is to get tickets. That hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s gotten more frustrating.

It’s one thing not to have received any tickets yet. While some interns have from their supervisors, it’s something that we’re not supposed to expect. And that’s fine. I don’t expect to just receive tickets out of the blue from anyone. I didn’t expect it before the games started and I don’t expect it now. I’d be happy to work for NBC Olympics regardless.

It’s another thing when everyone around you brags about visiting venues with their credential because they have a small, black rectangular box that says ALL on it. But over the last few days, almost every PA, driver and intern has bragged about where they’ve been. I saw two interns who just came back from Wimbledon watching the men’s tennis semifinals. A few drivers went inside Olympic Stadium to take a picture of the cauldron. Others brag about being front row at beach volleyball.

At times, I loathe them. There were few people working for NBC that didn’t have this kind of access and loggers just happened to be in this minority. We worked just as hard, at times harder, than some of the people that got to go into venues and it was annoying to be in an Olympic City and not be able to go to an event.

And boy did I try to get my credential changed. I went to the USOC office, then to the credential office itself. I was told to speak with NBC since they arranged the credentials. I went to the accreditation office and they said to talk to the department supervisors. Sounds easy, but I was simply terrified of the prospect of getting rejected.

Eventually, I figured it’s better to ask than to never do so at all. I did, and while the looks on my supervisors said that they really wanted to get me access to venues, the answer wasn’t what I wanted.

“We can’t. There’d be no way to justify getting you the credential.”

Once I heard that, I simply gave up, put on the best smile I could and said, “That’s okay. I’ll stick with the seven TVs that I have.”

Feeling defeated, I decided that the best thing to do was buy tickets. I realized that I am in London and if I’m not going to be given tickets or the credentials to access venues, you might as well just pay out of your pocket.

I had set up an account a week before. Normally, non-UK residents can’t set up accounts, but I used the address of the hotel that I was staying at to make it look like I was a UK resident.

Finding tickets turned out to be a chore in itself. Tickets were so hard to come by because the only way you could get them was online and that meant there were thousands of visitors logging onto the site at one time.

First you had to log on to tickets.london2012.com, then you log in and search for events. I always searched by date, looking for any tickets that were available from now until the end of the games. With the games halfway over and tickets limited, I would go to anything at this point.

The search results would usually give a short list of events. Even when you click select, sometimes tickets would go so quickly that by the time that you got to the next page, there would actually be no tickets available. Then there’d be times when you do see tickets available, at a price range that you could afford. But after you click on reserve, no tickets would be available.

Basically, you had to check every 10 minutes, which is what I did all day today. The frustration of not finding tickets got to a point that I needed a break. I went to the quiet room at the MPC, took a short nap and came back.

I pressed refresh and instead of the usual eight to ten events that were available, there were over 60! I didn’t know where all these tickets came from, but I didn’t have time to care. I started looking.

After about 10-15 minutes of furious clicking, I finally got to the page where I can actually buy the tickets. I entered my credit card information and hit buy. I get the confirmation email and then pick up the physical ticket at a box office inside Olympic park.

Ticket Confirmation E-mail

Tomorrow morning, I was going to ExCel to watch Table Tennis.

(to be continued)

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