Last-minute Olympic event tickets available but pricey

Canadians looking to experience the London 2012 Olympics in person can still find affordable flights, but should be prepared to pay top dollar for tickets to the few remaining available events.

Travel experts say flight from Canada to London no more expensive than usual

Canadians looking for a last-minute trip to the London Olympics face steep prices for event tickets. (Chris Helgren/Reuters)

Canadians looking to make a last-minute trip to the London Olympics can still get an affordable flight, but will have to pay a premium for tickets to events and ceremonies.

The Games run from July 27 to August 12 with the vast majority of events being held in the London area. Round trip airfares to the city's Gatwick Airport will set travelers back about $800 from Toronto or about $1,000 from Vancouver, according to Chris March, manager with the Flight Centre travel agency.

Those prices are largely unchanged from the same dates last year, in part because mega-events like the Olympics can scare off as many visitors as they attract, he said.

"It can work both ways. It entices people to go there and be a part of such an amazing event. But also, people are aware that it's a big city and [with] an extra 3 million people on top of that, it's going to be a busy time."

Costly ceremonies

While flights are relatively affordable, getting tickets to Olympic events is another matter.

CoSport Inc., based in Toronto, is the exclusive authorized seller of Olympic tickets in Canada. As of Wednesday afternoon all but two of the company’s 260 hospitality packages for London 2012 — including hotel and Olympic tickets — have sold out.

All that remained was a pair of packages including two nights in a three-star hotel and tickets to the opening ceremony on July 27. The price for each ranged from approximately $7,000 to $10,000 US for one person and from $11,000 to $17,000 for two people, depending on seating location within the Olympic Stadium.

Those prices cover only hotel accommodation and ceremony tickets, and do not include the cost of a flight to London. Canadians looking to attend the closing ceremony on August 12 can still find tickets, provided they are willing to fork over either $1,880 or $2,797 per seat.

London police are also warning anyone looking for Olympic tickets that they should purchase them only through official suppliers. Earlier this month, police issued a warning about a series of websites operated by "Euroteam" which they believe sold tickets to people in several countries worldwide, including Canada.

"There is an ongoing investigation by the Norwegian Police into the wider activity of this company, and we know that the company have stated that they have not sourced all of the Olympic and Paralympic tickets that they have sold," said London police detective superintendent Nick Downing.

Downing added he's concerned that people who bought Olympic tickets from Euroteam sites will not receive them.

Hotel hotbeds

Accommodations in London also look to be costly.

"I haven't seen many cheap deals. There have been some good price points around and before the Olympics, but when the Games are on, the price point is still pretty high," said March.

He emphasized that anyone thinking of going to the Olympics should book as soon as possible. "You don't want to be left disappointed and scrambling to find accommodation there because that will be a very hard thing to find."

Despite the dwindling number of hotel rooms available through Canadian travel agents, UK media reports have noted recently that some hotels in London do have vacancies, and they're starting to discount their prices.

Top-dollar tickets available

The tickets that are still availalble for individual events are going for top dollar, particularly for international visitors.

The Olympics' policy of prioritizing event availability to citizens of the host country ensured that 75 per cent of the 11 million total tickets available were reserved for the British public, according to the official London 2012 website.

That means Britons have had a much easier time getting tickets, with many seats still available for multiple events including soccer, gymnastics and diving.

Last week, BBC reported that two-thirds of the soccer tickets for matches held in the Scottish city of Glasgow were still available. As a consequence, 50,000 complimentary tickets to the eight matches scheduled at the city's Hampden Park will be made available to children, schools and youth groups.

Seats are much harder to find if you're coming from outside the UK. Popular events such as athletics, tennis and swimming are now completely sold out to Canadian visitors, at least through official vendors.

Tickets were first made available to Canadians through CoSport in March of last year. More tickets were released in January and then again in May.

With days to go before the Olympics begin, seats at a small number of individual sporting events are still available, but selection is extremely limited, and costly.

Tickets for basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, handball and weight lifting as well as the closing ceremony were all available as of Wednesday.

Prices for those events ranged from a low of $207 for the gold medal game in women’s handball to a high of $663 for the bronze medal game of the men’s basketball tournament. And, payment can only be made using only cash or Visa cards (the official Olympic sponsor) — credit cards from non-sponsors aren't being accepted.

Tickets for the final day of beach volleyball were pegged at $608 or $890, depending on seating category. Boxing tickets were going for either $608 or $790 per ticket. And, a seat at a weightlifting event costs either $272 or $381, based on the competition date. (CoSport’s ticket prices for all events include a $72 handling fee per ticket).

Last-minute buyers can still try their luck, since small numbers of tickets will continue to be released on an almost daily basis until the start of the Games, according to the official London 2012 ticketing website.