Where admission is a big-ticket item

The word “gouging” rolls off the tongue with equal ease when discussing pro wrestling and Olympic ticket prices.

IBM is not the only famous three-letter, massive corporation that seeks huge profits. Right there is the IOC. That stands for the International Olympic Committee, which awarded its every-four-year revenue bonanza to a five-letter corporation, LOCOG, which stands for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games.

The big ruckus around here Monday morning was over all the empty seats people are seeing as they watch events on TV. For veteran Olympic observers, this is about as new as the hammer throw. The prime seats are for Olympic officials and their sponsors.

The IOC requires that a block of the best seats is set aside at each venue, just in case lunch at the Ritz isn’t good that day, or there isn’t a polo match beckoning. When the frog legs are being served, or there is drama expected in the late chukkers, the best seats stay empty, are shown on TV, and the ticket-buying natives get restless.


A woman named Sara Jourdan, a 42-year-old schoolteacher with two kids, was quoted in the Times of London on Monday as saying, "...We feel excluded, and it is especially galling when you see all those empty seats.”

The empty seats are only a sideshow, an early-Games aberration solved when the blue bloods get interested. More serious is the reality that most people couldn’t afford those seats, or many others, even if they were made available.

In case you were thinking of gathering up the family and flying across the pond for some Olympic action next week, here’s your quick guide to sudden poverty.

You missed the opening ceremony, but had you sidled up to the ticket window, the teller would have smiled and said, “2,012 pounds, please.” That’s the best ticket and it is a nicely symbolic number for the year of these Games. It also translates to $3,158.84. That is according to Monday’s 1.57 exchange rate. But don’t despair. Drop down a class in seats and you paid only $2,510.83


You haven’t missed the closing ceremony. One ticket, best seat, $2,353.91. Get ‘em while supplies last.

One of The Times’ photographers here reported that his wife purchased a seat for the women’s basketball final for $327, another one for the men’s beach volleyball final for $403, and paid a shipping fee of $35. That’s $765, and stands as proof that Times photographers are paid better than Times sportswriters.

Let’s sample further:

The top ticket in track and field, for sessions in which there are events such as the men’s 100 meters, is $1,137.72. For earlier, lower-profile events in track and field, a top ticket can be found for $706.17. There are also groupings of more reasonably priced seats, depending on your definition of reasonable, for $31.38 or $62.77 or $149.07.

The other hot-ticket items are swimming, gymnastics and basketball. Swimming and gymnastics will bring $706.12 for a top ticket, and it is $666.89 for the best men’s basketball final ticket.

Even some of the less-than-sexy sports are helping London cross the bridge to platinum profits.

The best ticket for rhythmic gymnastics (among other things, young girls in leotards, twirling ribbons) goes for $274.60; for dressage (horses prancing), $431.72; for boxing (there will be a judging controversy and it will involve a former Soviet bloc country), $619.81.

There are other options. If you want a package deal, you can get a prime ticket for a session of track and field, plus a five-star hotel room (possibly even more than 150 square feet) for $3,136.73. Don’t dally.


Or, if you are just part of the unwashed masses who need to pay the mortgage and buy groceries, but still want that Olympic feeling, you can get on the tube to Olympic Park and pay 10 pounds ($15.69) for a grounds pass that lets you walk around. For 15 pounds more ($23.50), you can ride to the top of the 377-foot Orbit Tower for a better view. You want atmosphere? For $39.23, it’s yours.

Jackie Brock-Doyle, LOCOG’s director of communications and public affairs, who clearly had been asked the question many times before about pricing the common man out of the Olympics, responded Monday morning when asked it again: “The way people bought the tickets -- the stadiums are jampacked -- means our pricing was correct.”

It’s pretty clear. Perhaps more than any athlete, London has gone for the gold.