VIP treatment: Life is golden in the Olympic fast lane
As the rest of us get used to being also-rans in the race for tickets, a chosen few are preparing to enjoy nothing but the very best of London 2012
Time at the web browser, please, ladies and gentlemen, that's your lot. With last orders called on Olympics tickets yesterday as the final batch went on sale, if you haven't already got your pass to the greatest show on earth, football notwithstanding, the overwhelming likelihood is that you never will. A few tickets for boxing, diving, taekwondo and a smattering of others remain, almost all with prices tags reaching well into the three figures, but that is it.
Those having to make to do, then, with enviously peering over the crowds this summer from their seat on the sofa, will find their eyes alighting on a decidedly generous handful of people who, believe it or not, haven't spent the last 12 months forlornly clicking the "Refresh" button on the London2012 website. The Olympics remains the unrivalled showcase for the globe's moneyed and powerful. About 120 heads of state, the heads of almost all the governing bodies in world sport and the chief executives of the world's biggest companies are only a small proportion of the thousands of portly felines who will stroll past the queues at Heathrow into their waiting BMWs, be driven in their special lanes to the best hotel rooms – reserved for them at preferential rates by London's organising committee – and after a cocktail or two, park their posteriors in the best seats in the Olympic house.
Just who is and isn't on London's glittering guest list this summer would bewilder even the most fearsome bomber-jacketed bouncer.
First there are the heads of state, believed to number about 120 – comfortably more than the 87 who journeyed to Beijing. The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, won't reveal exactly who or how many there are, but the list will have been finalised some time ago.
The Metropolitan Police are expecting to provide plain clothed armed protection for about 150 people attending the opening ceremony on 27 July. These men (and one or two women) do not travel light, and will bring their own, unarmed we are told, security detail, too. Quite what events they will attend will have already been ironed out in phone calls between embassy staff. If some don't turn up, don't expect their tickets to go back into the hands of the public. They will be seated "in royal boxes and such like," say organisers.
Kings and queens and presidents do not even form part of the much vaunted "Olympic Family", which numbers about 80,000 people. The biggest proportion, by some distance, are the sponsors. About 25,000 people working for the Olympics' 55 official partners – from McDonald's and Dow Chemical to Thomas Cook, Heathrow Airport and Holiday Inn.
Locog, the committee organising the Olympics, say these 55 companies have been allocated somewhere between four and six per cent of the tickets, about half a million seats. Many of these will find their way into the public's hands through competitions and such like.
Most sponsors are providing payment in kind – Panasonic are doing the big screens, BT the wi-fi. The law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are the official legal advice providers, including, more than a little comically, on whether the eye-wateringly expensive corporate hospitality packages might land anyone who buys them foul of the Bribery Act. Procter and Gamble are another, though they are publicly giving all of their allocation to the friends and family of Team GB athletes.
But they will still have a gay old time. Coca-Cola, one of the seven "top tier" international sponsors have hired out, London's Langham Hotel in its entirety for the games. Not even the usually public bars will be open.
Then there's the International Olympic Committee, which at 204 has 11 more countries on its books than the UN. The heads of individual countries' National Olympic Committees dish out the tickets to the general public of their nations, but invariably not without holding a few for themselves and their guests.
Last but not least, the heads of the governing bodies of the 26 Olympic sports, everyone from water polo to football. So eyes peeled for Sepp Blatter, coming to an Olympic Zil Lane near you.
Heads of State
Anyone with an EU travel ban will be prevented from attending, so that rules out Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Belarus's dictator Alexander Lukashenko, and the world's persona non grata No 1, Bashar al-Assad, of Syria. But that doesn't cover Uzbekistan's despotic leader Islam Karimov and his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who are both hoping to attend.
The heads of all the Olympics' 26 sports will be in London this summer, from the men and women who run water polo, taekwondo and such like, to those who perch a little higher up the money tree, not least football's Sepp Blatter. Expect to see "lovely lady" and "daughter of a sultan", as Sepp described her, Lydia Nsekera too. Burundi-born Nsekera has been a member of the International Olympic Committee since 2009, and as of this week, is FIFA's first female board member.
Andrew Liveris, the Australian CEO of Dow Chemical, will be wrapped up safe inside the Dow-sponsored stadium, the headache for the organisers that isn't going away. Recently he said those still trying to sue Dow over the 1985 Bhopal disaster are "trying to drag us in because we have deep pockets." They undoubtedly do. Their 10-year Olympic sponsorship deal cost £64m. Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola's CEO, may be propping up the bar at London's Langham Hotel sipping, of course, a Coca Cola-based cocktail.
Every nation has its own National Olympic Committee. Some of its heads are more savoury than others. Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa is head of Bahrain's Olympic Committee and hopes to attend, despite torture allegations against him. Syrian army general Mowaffak Joumaa is head of the Syria's Olympic Committee and also plans to attend. UK border staff may refuse both men entry, if independent evidence of human rights abuses is available, but the Foreign Office will not comment on individual cases.
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