Olympic tickets roulette
Heading for Vancouver? Getting a deal on tickets requires speed, cash -- and a tolerance for crowds.
The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics start Feb. 12, and consumers hunting for tickets still have a shot at snagging gold-medal bargains -- but don’t buy tickets until you’re sure you can get a place to stay.
Last-minute demand has been very strong, says Mark Lewis, president of Jet Set Sports and CoSport.com, which sells corporate and public Olympic ticket packages. The good and bad news for travelers is, Vancouver is a more economical and accessible destination than the 2008 summer games in Beijing. That means hotels could be harder to come by and crowds might be bigger. “It’s practically in the backyard,” says Lewis. (With train, bus and car access, Americans on the West Coast can even manage the excursion into Canada as a quick day trip.)
Still, with more than 200 events spread out over 17 days, there should be opportunities for travelers to find a good deal, no matter what their budget. “You can pick a la carte to create the experience you want to have,” says Mike Janes, chief executive of ticket search engine FanSnap.com. Here’s what to look for:
Book accommodations first. Finding a place to stay is somewhat tougher than buying event tickets, Lewis says. “There’s some availability throughout the greater Vancouver area,” he says. But depending on the dates and length of your stay, you may need to settle for more remote hotels or instead rent a room from a local property owner. Many properties also have minimum-stay requirements of four nights or longer. Check the official games planning site 2010DestinationPlanner.com for availability.
Avoid crowds. If you’re traveling more for a general Olympic Games experience than to see a specific sport, team or athlete, flexibility can yield substantial savings. Prices are at a premium for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the two most popular sports: hockey and figure skating, says Robert Tuchman, the founder of sports marketing firm TSE Sports & Entertainment. You’ll find better prices and broader ticket availability for other events. For example, the cheapest tickets for the 10 figure skating events range from $300 to $889, according to FanSnap.com. The cheapest tickets for the 33 curling matches, on the other hand, cost $35 to $451.
Watch the weather. Forecasts for Vancouver over the next week include temperatures in the low 50s and a good chance of rain, reports Accuweather.com. “Frankly, there hasn’t been that much snow in Canada lately,” Janes says. That’s not exactly ideal weather for outdoor sports. While games organizers have backup plans in place (including plenty of man-made snow), availability of low-priced tickets for outdoor events such as snowboarding and skiing could increase at the last minute if conditions look less than ideal for a good show.
Explore match options. Set on watching a hockey match? Expect to pay more on days when fan favorites play. For example, “a U.S.-Canada hockey game is a big ticket,” Tuchman says. “You have two local teams and a significant following.” The cheapest ticket for that Feb. 21 match is currently $1,150, according to FanSnap.com. In comparison, the cheapest tickets for other games range from $110 (on Feb. 20, Norway vs. Switzerland) to $357 (on Feb. 18, Switzerland vs. Canada).
Watch event progression. The proximity of Vancouver can also work against travelers hoping for even better deals at the 11th hour, Janes says. If you really want to see the semifinals or finals of a sporting event, buy before qualifying rounds determine if a must-see event will occur -- say, a U.S.-Canada hockey finals matchup, or the race that would tie Apolo Anton Ohno for the title of most medals won by a U.S. Winter Olympian. In that case, expect rapidly dwindling supply and escalating prices. “It’s not out of the realm of possibility for people to drop what they’re doing and make a dash for tickets,” Janes says.
Related reading at SmartMoney:
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