Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Olympic Ticket Debate

Applications for the 2012Olympic tickets have been open for a few weeks now and close on 26th April. Tickets for the Paralympic Games will go on sale in September. Supposedly, to make applying for tickets fair, they have left applications open for six weeks, but one thing that is noticeably unfair is the discrimination towards non-wheelchair users. As a big sports fan and athlete the Olympics and Paralympics have been an exciting prospect for me, as I would like to watch the Olympic Games before competing in the Paralympics. However, buy 1 get 1 free tickets is only open to wheelchair users, which left me riled and confused on what tickets I should purchase.

Since I have the strong belief that I will be participating in the Paralympics, it meant I would be limited in what Olympic events I would be able to watch, as hopefully I’ll be busy in preparations. Therefore, long ago I decided I would like to watch a morning session of athletics that involves the men’s 100m heats, as although athletics begins in the second week of the Olympics, I know it’s always near the start of the athletics action. On Saturday 4th August 2012 the morning session of athletics includes the men’s 100m heats, men’s 400m heats, women’s 3000m steeple chase, women’s pollvolt qualification and a couple of women’s heptathlon field events. This looks like an amazing day of athletics with chances to see Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay, but hopefully witness Oscar Pistorius make history in the 400m, whilst having the opportunity to see Jessica Ennis on her way to glory. But wait, I’m not in a wheelchair, so what tickets do I apply for?!

Back in November I questioned London 2012 about this and received a vague email about them needing to know how many wheelchair spaces they would have to allocate. So, I assumed that by the time that tickets would be available that the issue would be sorted. Just before applications opened I heard an Intouch programme on Radio 4 talking about whether visually impaired spectators would receive a discount and to my annoyance they were just as unsure as I was.

So, when tickets were released I had several dilemmas. Do I purchase four tickets (remember my brother is blind too) and hope they refund my money at a later date? They state in their disability information that visually impaired people will be seated near to the action, so do I just buy the cheapest tickets? After much deliberation I decided to buy four tickets at £65 each, which is the middle price band. I desperately want to see this session of athletics and felt that I had more chance of obtaining tickets if I avoided the cheaper price bands. I also had no choice and had to purchase four tickets to ensure that my whole family could attend. Ideally, I would have liked to purchase two tickets at £95, knowing I would get two free and in the knowledge I would have a very good chance of being successful with my application.

Then last night Intouch were discussing Olympic tickets again. Apparently, if you are visually impaired or have another disability that doesn’t require a wheelchair then you should only apply for tickets for yourself and then if you are successful at a later date you can apply for carer or companion tickets for free. These carer tickets are not guaranteed and I would think for a popular event like the men’s 100m I have applied for there would be little chance I’d be successful. I read all of the disability information prior to applying for my tickets and at no point did I see this suggested hence buying four tickets. However, I’m not sure I would have risked only purchasing two tickets and potentially I could be left with not enough tickets for me and my family. On the other hand, I may end up with two extra tickets now or who knows I might not get any and just be bitterly disappointed.

Say a visually impaired person just bought one ticket and then was unable to get a free companion ticket they would be left with a variety of access issues. If they went alone; how would they negotiate the crowd? How would they find their seat? Once seated how would they find the toilet? How would they find food? How would they make their way out? How would they know everything that was going on? There will be commentary for visually impaired spectators, but what about the added extras like whether or not Usain Bolt is wearing gold coloured spikes or if Tyson Gay is doing his usual ritual before the start of a race!

Nobody is denying that wheelchair users should not get a free companion, but the discount should be readily available to all disabilities requiring extra support in order to make the once in a lifetime experience the best it can be! If you would like to listen to the latest Intouch programme regarding the ticket debate, you can do so here:

BBC’s Intouch 29/03/11

I believe the email they refer to is mine, which I sent them after the last show.

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