Sunday, November 02, 2008

my olympic experience - part 1

In a little over a year, the Winter Olympics will take place in Vancouver. That's easy transit distance from where I live, in Port Moody, so it makes sense that I should plan for my family to attend at least some of the Olympics, while we have the chance.

But it's complicated.

First, there's the issue of the politics of the Olympics in a person's home town. I am positive that the millions of dollars being spent on this event could and should be better spent taking care of people in need - homeless, ill, addicted, students, the elderly... it's a long list. I'm also pretty sure that the games will end up boosting the local economy the way Expo 86 did. They will also displace people like Expo 86 did, with single room occupancy hotels being upgraded into tourist accommodation, and unsightly poor people being whisked out of view (where to, I'm not sure) to avoid media criticism of our government. Many people of have followed their consciences and protested the games. Many will not attend because of their objections to the games' rightness.

On the other hand, the positive side of the event can't be discounted. This is the pinnacle of sport, featuring and honouring many amateur athletes who have invested years in training and preparation in their participation in the games. I don't know when my family will ever have a chance again to be part of it. I don't want to miss the chance to find out what it's all about - first hand.

The other consideration is our own resources of time and money. It's a fact that tickets are very expensive. Even buying tickets for a few of the least expensive events in the least expensive seats will add up to a lot, especially for a family of four. And so much is unknown - our work and school schedules during the weeks of the Olympics and which tickets we will succeed in buying. Even which countries will be competing at which times and where the seats are in the venues is still up in the air. So it's a bit of a leap of faith to request tickets.

But we must request tickets before November 7 in order to be given priority consideration.

So, we looked at the ticket website, printed out the ticketing guide and began to discuss our options. We discovered that we could easily spend over $1 thousand for each member of our family, just to see a handful of events. Obviously, we can't afford to do that, so we had to think about choices and make some guesses and gambles.

We agreed that we mainly just want to be there for the flavour of it. None of us is a super fan of any one sport, nor do we want to make great sacrifices of time or money. To be honest, we don't have great quantities available for sacrifice, even if we wanted to. We just don't want to miss it altogether, and we sense we'll have as much fun people-watching and getting swept up in the excitement, as we will witnessing the actual competition.

So we each chose a sport that we thought might be fun, looked for weekend/evening event times, and scoped out when the cheapest tickets were to be had. This rules out finals events for most sports, and pretty much ensures that we will be hoping for a good view of the jumbo-tron if there is one, either that or really good binoculars.

I read up on how it works to order tickets. Here's a summary:

You request tickets now (if you live in Canada) and give your credit card (VISA only) for the tickets you request. Deadline is November 7. Then during the middle of November, there's a lottery. If your request for any given event or package is drawn, you automatically purchase the tickets for that event and they are billed to your VISA. Notification comes in early December. After that, people who have requested tickets are given priority access to the remaining tickets for a couple of weeks, after which ticket sales are opened to the general public.

You can increase your chances of getting the tickets you request by buying an "Olympic Experience Package" which includes 5 or 6 events including one award ceremony. These packages are pre-set, and are drawn in the lottery before individual event requests.

Prices? The cheapest individual event is $25 plus a $4 fulfilment fee (I'm not sure what that means but you pay it). These includes Women's Ice Hockey (preliminary) and Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing. And that's for the cheap seats at these events. Expensive individual tickets include Men's Gold Medal Ice Hockey, best seats at $793 including fee. Good figure skating tickets are $438. Alpine Skiing costs $93 or $130, depending on the seats. That's for one seat, one event.

The cheapest package is $156 for 3 days in a row at Whistler to see Ladies Cross-Country Skiing, Men's Two-Man Bobsleigh and Men's Giant Slalom (of course you'll need to pay to stay in a hotel there or buy a $25 two-way bus ticket for each day you go up). The most expensive package costs $1,325. For this you get to attend the Opening Ceremony, Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary, Snowboarding, Curling, Women's Semi-Final Hockey and a Vancouver Victory Ceremony.

So after some thought we settled on bidding for 4 events, two tickets each, cheapest seats available. Two Men's Preliminary Ice Hockey games (because Alex is the most excited about all of us about seeing the Olympics) one Figure Skating event and Men's Bobsleigh (so Andy and I can go to Whistler for a bit of the Olympics and experience the buzz in the village as well as one event). We have hedged our bets on ticket availability by selecting alternate events for each one, so if we don't get our first choice of ice hockey game, we'll try for another, and so on.

We have requested very conservatively: 2 tickets per event for 4 events, so if we get all of the tickets that we asked for, each of us will attend 2 events.

The total possible maximum price, including $20 ticket delivery fee, is $446. If we add the $25 bus tickets to Whistler for 2 people that brings the total to $496. This averages to $62 per Olympic experience. Some or all of this will be billed to our VISA before Christmas. If we end up not being available for an event, there's a legal ticket re-sale program in the works, or we'll give them to friends. Rumour is that college breaks will be adjusted to work around the Olympics, and public schools may allow students leeway to attend, but nothing has been confirmed.

Chances are, we'll each get a small taste and have our curiousity satisfied. The VISA bill will be long-paid by the time the event comes around, so we'll probably even be able to afford some food and drink or an Olympic souvenir. (I declined on the $23 Collector Grade cloisonne pin featuring Miga and Quatchi that I could purchase at the time of my ticket request. I reckon there will be plenty of souvenirs all the time, before, during and after the event).

So now we wait to find out what we're going to see. We hope we made good choices.

A sidenote: another way to participate is by volunteering. Unfortunately the kids are too young to qualify as prospective volunteers. You have to be 19 years old by September 1, 2008. Alex just missed it by a few months.

Our Olympic experience begins. I'll keep you posted.

question: has the Olympics come to your neck of the woods? and did you attend?

mompoet - wondering what it will be like

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