Simon Kelner: You need Olympian levels of dedication to get a ticket

Kelner's view

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The Independent Online

It was very odd to wake up yesterday to a discussion about the inner-city riots which took place exactly a year ago. Was it really only a year since a country which, today, is swelled with communal pride was riven by urban disturbances?

We have become rather used to the sound of our National Anthem sung with feeling, to mark another gold medal for Britain, and to give another reason to be bound by collective achievement. We can't quite remember when the soundtrack to our lives was police sirens and the smashing of shop windows. Or maybe we have just blocked it out, which is why a discussion about the shockingly draconian sentences meted out to opportunist looters (for instance, 18 months for a first offence of taking some T-shirts from an already ransacked shop) or further examination of the police shooting of Mark Duggan seems so very jarring.

Today's landscape, populated with Olympic heroes and illuminated with a golden hue, is very different. Sporting success can make us feel as if we are all in it together, a feeling heightened by the fact that a mixed race woman and a Muslim immigrant are the British heroes of the hour. There is not so much focus at the moment about the haves and have-nots, unless, of course, you're talking about tickets to watch the Games.

In this narrow respect, Britain is largely a land of have-nots. Over last weekend, when public interest in events at the stadium peaked, traffic to the Locog site increased to 2.5 million visitors a day. So in households up and down the country, computers were on, and were refreshed every minute or so. People eager to be part of the Games were sitting in front of screens for hours, getting a message that their request will be processed in "15 minutes or more" only then to be told that their application is not successful. Others put their alarm on in the middle of the night in the hope that they will log on to Locog at precisely the time the Botswanan delegation's unused allocation is released. But to all those who are complaining that they can't get tickets, I would say this: the Olympic Games is a celebration of the elite, so it is only right that you need to show superhuman levels of dedication and application to get your reward.

And how about this for a true Olympian? A tech wizard called Adam Naisbitt has designed a computer program that checks the website every second and sends out alerts when tickets become available. Tens of thousands of Twitter followers are using the service and he asks for no reward, but simply suggests a donation to the British Olympic Foundation.

But even if you strike lucky, your problems may not be over. A friend told me he'd paid £725 for a ticket the other day. Blimey, I said, that's steep. How much was the cover price? No, he replied, that was the cover price.

The people's games? It seems that, a year on, we haven't learnt that much about social exclusion.