Just the ticket
Desperate to see the Games? Jenny Southan reveals last-minute hospitality options for the Olympics.
You may have been unlucky in the ballot or simply not acted in time, but you still have a chance to get to the Olympics – and impress your associates at the same time. Corporate hospitality packages are still available and are a great way to express your commitment to your best clients and hardworking employees.
Tony Barnard, marketing director of Prestige Ticketing, says: “We have sold 85 per cent [of our assigned tickets] to corporates across segments such as finance, law, construction and media. They have recognised this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
US company Jet Set Sports has been designated by LOCOG (the London 2012 Organising Committee for the Olympic Games) to sell packages to overseas visitors, while UK citizens have the choice of authorised vendors Thomas Cook and Prestige Ticketing. Of the 8.8 million tickets that were available, about 6 per cent were assigned to corporate hospitality. Most packages can be fine-tuned to suit your needs.
If you fancy a top-tier seat with fine dining in a lavish environment within the Olympic sites themselves, then Prestige is the way to go, though it doesn’t offer transport or accommodation. Thomas Cook sells cheaper Games Break Plus packages with hotels, meals, staff and coach transfers thrown in – but keep in mind that you will be eating in off-site restaurants so might miss out on some of the excitement.
Stephen Vaughan, managing director of Thomas Cook London 2012 Partnership, says one of its key selling points is its shuttle service. “A lot of corporate clients do not wish for themselves or their clients to use the Tube. If people are paying a certain amount of money to have their guests stay in great hotels and go to great events, they want to cap it off with
Despite rumours to the contrary, he says that no corporate package allows access to Olympic fast lanes throughout the city. These are for Olympic sponsors, athletes and officials only.
When tickets went on sale to the public, the most expensive events – such as the opening and closing ceremonies – cost up to £2,012 for the best seats, although LOCOG says 90 per cent were less than £100. Although the three official third-party vendors were not allowed to mark up ticket prices, by offering added extras they have been able to charge whatever they want.
Prestige points out that while tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies are its most expensive, at £7,500, it has effectively multiplied the original ticket fee by just over three times (although with VAT added it comes to a hefty £9,000, which is more than quadruple). In contrast, a corporate hospitality package at the 2012 Champions League final can be nearly ten times dearer than the original ticket (£3,032 versus £307), while Wimbledon could be 33 times more (£3,950 versus £120). Even so, £9,000 per person remains a price that only the elite will be able to justify.
Most of the Olympic and Paralympic packages Prestige lists include AA category seats – the best in the venue – although it is now selling some lower tier A and B spots. Its cheapest AA-ticket package costs £3,540 (including VAT), while a lower category ticket to the opening or closing ceremonies is £5,400, and the Olympic Park events (track cycling, diving, handball, hockey, swimming and water polo) start from £954.
Events outside the Park, such as beach volleyball, rowing, canoe sprint, equestrian, modern pentathlon or tennis, range from £354 to £2,340, while basketball or gymnastics at the North Greenwich Arena (aka the O2) are between £1,194 and £2,250.
Prestige has spent £9.5 million on a luxurious temporary facility in the Olympic Park (see picture above), which will be able to cater for 3,000 guests at any one time across eight restaurants. It is also constructing three other venues – a 600-capacity structure overlooking the finish line at Eton Dorney for the rowing, a 500-seat building in St James’s Park only 100 metres from the beach volleyball at Horseguards Parade, and a Greenwich Park venue with two 250-seat restaurants atop a pair of towers connected by a glass bridge, allowing spectators to watch the horses gallop below.
Barnard says: “The Eton Dorney venue will be done like a classic English boathouse. Horseguards Parade is going to look like a funky, urban sports club, and Greenwich will be very sophisticated.” He adds: “At the North Greenwich Arena we have got all 96 private boxes, and at Wimbledon we have the Debenture lounges and Sky View suites, and some private boxes as well.”
Thomas Cook is offering packages with Olympic and Paralympic tickets in AA, A and B categories, with options such as one-night/one-event breaks on a sole-occupancy hotel room basis being ideal for individuals. The athletics 100-metre final with a category B ticket includes a four-star hotel stay with breakfast, a meal in a top London restaurant and private transfers for £3,899. Five-star accommodation and an AA ticket for the diving final starts from £1,999, while a category A ticket to the hockey semi-final and a night in a four-star property starts from £1,399. Packages for multiple nights and events are popular, with prices based on two people sharing a room.
Vaughn says: “We have taken large bookings from Olympic sponsors, non-Olympic sponsors and high net-worth individuals alike. The average corporate package is between £1,500 and £2,000 per person.”
How much time is there left to book? LOCOG will be releasing one million Olympic tickets, 1.5 million for the football and 1.5 million for the Paralympics, at an as-yet unannounced date in April, which will be available to buy through tickets.london2012.com.
Thomas Cook expects to be sold out by the end of May, while Prestige says tickets for the most popular events are likely to have sold out by the beginning of this month. So if you want to see something decent, don’t leave it until a couple of weeks before the start of the Games on July 27 – get booking.
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