Inside travel: Olympic London
London 2012 tickets are now up for grabs. Simon Calder reveals the travel options
Saturday 12 March 2011
Next Tuesday, you can start applying for tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games. London will welcome the world between 27 July and 12 August next year, but plenty of British sports fans also want a slice of the action . Most events take place around the Olympic site in Stratford, east London, with some sports located elsewhere in London and across Britain. But finding accommodation in the capital could prove difficult and expensive: The Independent Traveller has learnt that one top London hotel is increasing its room rates by 150 per cent during the Games. To keep your Olympic experience free of hurdles, start here.
How to get tickets
Register at tickets.london2012.com for a "ticketing account": it's free, and takes a couple of minutes. From next Tuesday until 26 April you can bid for up to 20 events – as long as you have a Visa credit or debit card that expires no earlier than August 2011.
For more popular events, such as athletics and the swimming finals, tickets are likely to be oversubscribed, and these will be allocated by ballot in the same manner as Wimbledon tickets. If you are assigned tickets, you must buy them – you can't simply consider the offer. But there will be a mechanism for selling the tickets back to the Organising Committee.
If you demand more certainty, then you will need to go through one of the official agencies; Thomas Cook (0844 800 2012; thomascooklondon2012.com), "Official Provider of Short Breaks to the London 2012 Games", is putting its offerings on sale from Tuesday. It promises "tickets to a full range of events from the Opening Ceremony and 100m final to regional football heats, sailing and synchronised swimming", along with accommodation.
The entry-level package is one night at the Ibis Heathrow, including breakfast, a Games Travelcard (providing unlimited Tube and bus access), and a ticket for the women's volleyball, costing £198 for two.
At the upper end of the scale, a three-night half-board stay at the Hyatt Regency Churchill Hotel, including tickets to the men's 100m final, costs £8,798 for two, while the same hotel offer with the Opening Ceremony (plus a bit of table tennis and that always-popular women's volleyball) will cost a couple £12,998.
How to get there
By train or coach to London, then by Tube; the capital's roads will be in disarray because of closures. And don't rely on domestic flights: London's airports will be disrupted with the most extraordinary constraints on airspace the city has ever seen, with restrictions in an area from Cambridge to the South Downs and from Southend-on-Sea to Reading. The core is a "prohibited" zone extending east and west beyond the M25, though flights to and from Heathrow and London City will be allowed. If some services need to be cancelled because of the restrictions, domestic flights are likely to be hardest hit.
Where to stay
That is the biggest issue facing many prospective visitors, with hotels naturally keen to cash in on what they expect to be high demand. VisitBritain's "Fair Pricing and Practice Charter", designed to counter perceptions that accommodation will be overpriced throughout next summer, does not specify a ceiling for rate increases. An ordinary double room at the four-star DoubleTree in central London is going for £450 a night on 1 August 2012, compared with £180 for the same night this summer.
The budget hotel chains such as Travelodge, Premier Inn and easyHotel take bookings only one year in advance, so you cannot yet book. However, there are some budget options. University halls of residence are not increasing their rates substantially. At King's College London, a typical single-room rate of £44 at the Stamford Street Apartments on the South Bank increases by only 25 per cent to £55 (kcl.ac.uk/ kcvb). The same mark-up applies at the Park Inn in Thurrock – 15 miles out. The YHA has also promised good-value deals for people hoping to see events.
Camping is a possibility: there are good sites around the capital. My favourite is beside the BBC transmitter at Crystal Palace (www.bit.ly/faY0UN): £10 a night when last I stayed there. For a party atmosphere, see camping2012 games.co.uk: John Morley is organising a campsite close to Epping in the Essex countryside. "Pitches will be from £20 per night. We will also have live music, big screens for the sport, bars, catering, etc."
Or take a chance on the likelihood (based on observation of previous Games in Sydney and Athens) that there will, a few weeks before the competition begins, be something of a last-minute panic, and room rates will tumble as hotels scramble to fill beds.
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