Recycle the Olympic Seats

Just got back from the Olympic Park to hear Locog’s trying to solve the problem with empty seats at venues.

I managed to get a £10 entrance only ticket to the park, not expecting to see any Olympic action other than on the big screens.

But as we walked around the site, we came across a long queue for the ticket office. We assumed this was for tickets for the Mittal Orbit or maybe for other events later in the week.

But no. It was for recycled tickets to watch the basketball and handball. Every ticket has a barcode that’s scanned but not everyone wants to sit through the whole sporting event.

When they leave the venue, their ticket is scanned again, notifying the ticket office that seat is now free.

Those tickets are then put back on sale for a fraction of the price.

So after a half hour queue, I found myself picking up a £90 ticket to see the US v Croatia in the basketball arena for just….£5.

There didn’t seem to be that many seats free – it was a popular game – but this wasn’t repeated across all the venues.

One of the problems causing the empty seats is a lot of corporates had bought hundreds of tickets to entertain their clients.

But these clients are so scared of breaching the Bribery Act, they’ve turned them down, leaving corporates with lots of tickets they can’t get rid of for love nor money.

I know that one large corporate has handed back at least 10 tickets for the 100m men’s final because their clients were too scared to accept them.

So what can we do. Well, one idea could be to recycle more of the seats. There should be a time limit of 30 mins to take up the seat. As all tickets are scanned, it’ll be quite easy to see which seats are still empty.

The seats would then come back on the market and sold at the on-site ticket office for a fiver. If the original ticket holder turns up late,
they could be given another recycled ticket or empty space.

But access to the Olympic Park should be increased. £10 tickets should be made available on a first come first served basis every morning. This would mean more people would be in the park to apply for recycled tickets.

I think this is the easiest way to solve the problem. But solve it they must.

If we see a daily repeat of these swathes of empty seats not only will Locog’s competence be called into question by the media, but the bank of public goodwill for London 2012 will be spent very quickly.


Finally, I know it’s a bit naff but it was too tempting….



43 thoughts on “Recycle the Olympic Seats

  1. Great idea to get these seats used. The empty seats are an embarrassment to the nation.

    However I have to suggest that the 50% empty seats I saw at Earls Court today for the women’s volleyball was nothing to do with fear of the Bribery Act and more likely just that the sponsors’ clients and employees do not bother to take up seats for the less high profile games.

    Very disappointing to hear that though I tried time and again to get tickets to the swimming that there were hundreds of empty seats today in the Aquatic Centre.

    1. It really is galling to see those empty seats. But they have the technology to recycle the seats. Just need the will

    2. How do you get into the Olympic park – are day tickets avaliable on the gates? There doesnt seem to be any avaliable online for even the paraolympics which I cant quite believe!

    3. @David Cox, it wasn’t just the low profile events, went to the swimming today with Michael Phelps in, there were probably 3 and a half totally empty blocks on the corporate side, and more on my side. It’s really annoying paying for tickets, knowing how many people struggled to get them, but didn’t – and then the seats being left empty!

  2. Good ideas here. I was in London today. Had applied for loads of tickets but got none. There wasn’t even any £10 tickets for the park available today or tomorrow so I’ve come back to Telford.I thought original plan had bus loads of local kids on stanby to fill empty venues.

  3. Thats ok if ur close enough to get to London daily to chance getting a returned ticket. We couldn’t run the risk of going in the hope of getting tickets – car par and train fare is too expensive to go – only to be sent away empty handed, Several events at various intervals we’ve applied for tickets – without luck. Today there’re only the best price seats available – no way could i afford them.

  4. Why does it cost £10 to get into a ‘park’ we paid to build & which is full of profiteers inside???

  5. I’ve got park tickets for Weds so this is really useful to know, as we’d love to get in to see something. Any advice or tips on how to get the recycled tickets? Or is it simply join the queue?

    1. My advice will be to study the Olympic Park and the events that are on that day. The ticket booths are located near or next to the venues. So go and have a chat with the ticket office staff and they’ll let you know what will be available. Good luck. It’s a fantastic day out and the 2012 merchandise superstore is superb and not too pricey.

      1. I’m confused. Today on BBC London radio they’ve been stressing the imporance of not just turning up, as there are no box offices on site selling tickets..??

  6. The only issue I have with reselling the tickets which I admit is only solution now is that people who would have had to travel far and would need overnight accomidation are still being excluded. But must admit am tempted by your suggestion. Maybe.

  7. I always hand my hospital car park ticket to someone comming in on my way out. Can’t stand teh thought of havingto pay £2.50 to attend hospital as a patient or visitor

  8. I can see how that would work for those living in easy reach of London. I’m desperate to go but live a good 100 miles away – and couldn’t risk forking out for travel and accommodation without a guarantee of tickets. I would love to see some of the athletics but just can’t afford the minimum of £295 for a ticket.

    1. Keep checking the ticket site – they are constantly releasing tickets at £20-30 for sports like handball, basketball, water polo, hockey, etc (which are all in the Olympic Park). Pick one of those up, get into the Olympic Park early, and get to the resale booths to try to get Athletics tickets for a fiver.

  9. To most surprising thing to me about this shambles is that anyone is surprised. There have been hints of incompetence in the build up and early events (eg the embarrassing equality errors in the Games Makers handbooks, the greed fest surrounding the Torch Relay, the Korean wrong flag issue, the wrong nationality cited for Team GB player Joe Allen, etc, etc).

    I like the sentiment behind your proposal but for real world workability it falls short. A 30 minute time limit makes assumptions such as Britain’s roads and transport infrastructure being traffic and delay free or that some people (eg parents of performers) have bought tickets for entire sessions while possibly only wanting their seat for a short time at the end of that session.

    The underlying problem is that planning has been done by people who assume expertise, who in true British fashion believe strategy is a generalism not a specialism and are then surprised when their plans show flaws. As I say, the only surprising thing to me is that anyone is surprised.

    1. Sorry, I bow to your unimaginably superior wisdom, if only we were all as all-seeing as you, the world would be perfect place!

    2. I suppose my only surprise is how long it took for a classic whinger to emerge from the shadows. The problems have been minute compared to the challenges so let us celebrate the many successes instead of picking over the faiures with ghoulish glee !

  10. Very fine, very publicly-spirited solution engineered by you to solve a LOCOG / sponsors’ c&ck-up. Make this happen, LOCOG, and fast, if your goodwill is not to evaporate, as predicted in this article. Fascinating, your allegations that corporates are scared by Bribery Act: all those in-house lawyers & satraps of schmoozing are evidently inadequate to the challenge. Good to see us little people cheaply solving the corporates’ problems for them.

  11. I too got £5 basketball tickets yesterday and was of course delighted, but it did beg the question for others to attend – they should have the technology and facility to provide returns etc at the entrance and then it’s first come bla…

  12. The only people to benefit from the selling of these left over tickets are londoners! For the rest of the country to plan travel and stay it’s too late!! Disgusting and incompetent

    1. Would they be the same Londoners who have had increased council tax for the last 5 years to pay towards the building of the park?

  13. So sad that this is what sport has become.
    Organisers bending over backwards to appease sponsers and real fans suffer. I hope this is sorted immediately.

  14. I understand the idea of reselling tickets but half an hour is not long enough to compensate for messed up public transport. Case in point my mother’s train was delayed by over 40 mins this morning making us late to our event. Under your scheme we would have lost our seats due to someone else’s mistake. Hardly fair given the cost.

  15. How can I get Olympic Park tickets? Are they available to queue up for?

    The ticket website says nothing is available. 😦

  16. Recycling the tickets?. I assumed once they’d been paid for that was it. Some of these websites/ticket touts would have bought lots of tickets to sell off for a higher price. http://Amj1F Great blog by the way.

  17. Excellent post David, which inspired me. If you keep checking the London 2012 website, they ARE continually putting tickets on sale for events the following day. Late last night I picked up a £20 Handball ticket for today – which gets me into the Olympic Park at least, and from then I will hit the resale booths as you did.

  18. Hi David,
    Can you let us know how you got the Olympic Park day ticket, please? I am desperately trying to get one for Thursday if possible, but the website says there are none available.

  19. This is an excellent piece, David.

    Having spent my second morning trying to navigate the London 2012 site, without any clear answers about how this works, I eventually found this. I’m tempted – with my husband, if I can convince him – to do just what you did. Pop over, see what happens. They’re saying the £10 entry tickets are sold out on the website, and your suggestion of a first come, first serve option is brilliant – but does anyone know, is it actually happening?

    For the price of an Oyster card ride out there, I’m tempted to volunteer as a Human Experiment. I’ll keep you posted.

    May I also add: as a graphic designer, the Olympic branding is the thing that’s making me the most crazy. I’m blown away by how well it’s running – the volunteers around town, the buzz, it’s brilliant – but even watching the swim meets on TV.. here it is, Zaha Hadid did such a great job on the design, and they had to stick that naff typeface on the players’ names! The website must have gone to Wolf Olins as well. So it’s refreshing to come to your well designed blog: a breath of welcome minimalism and not just good taste, but good common sense.

  20. Hello there! I am not sure if anyone will read my story, but I have just. Stumbled across this great blog!! I am here from London Ontario in Canada, as my 11 year old daughter is here dancing at Olympic park on Friday. (I guess it is friday now, so it will be in a few hours). We are so excited but have not been able to get a ticket to go in andq watch. My heart is broken that we have come all thisq way and will not see her dance. I have met so many kind British people ( and other nationalities too). There is no other day that she will dance. Her dance is 19 minutes long around 2pm and that’s it. No matter what happens, I am still very happy and proud that she is here, but if any of you lovely people know how I can get a park ticket or know of someone that is unable to use theirs, I would be forever grateful and you would have a Canadian friend for life…….thanks for your time. Alicia

  21. Wow that was strange. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
    Anyway, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

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