POSTED: February 15th 2011

JOHN GOODBODY: Balance the key to London 2012 timings and prices

THE JOHN GOODBODY COLUMN / An authoritative and exclusive series from Sports Features Communications

LONDON, Feb 16: The race has started, although it is going to be a marathon and not a sprint. The announcement of the programme of the 26 sports for the London Olympics will increasingly focus everyone’s minds on the Games with the tickets going on sale for Britons from March 15 to April 26.

And with the Games still 18 months away, there are still bound to be tickets for some events available after that.

Still for those people eager to get most of the prized seats, it will shortly be the time to act. As Seb Coe, the chairman of the organising committee (LOCOG) said: "The announcement of the programme means that everyone – athletes, coaches, spectators, broadcasters, and everyone who wants to be part of 2012 -- can now start planning their Games.”

With admission ranging in price from £2,012 to £20.12 for the Opening Ceremony on July 27 (and the significance of those figures fooling no one), there is a huge range of options and prices across sports, with 90 percent of all tickets costing £100 or less and £20 seats available for every sport .

So, although it is true that the highest-priced tickets for the men's and womens’ 100 metres on August 5 are a huge £725, you can get still £50 seats for the same event.

On first glance, it appears that LOCOG has carefully balanced the need to get in as much revenue as possible, by making some seats very expensive indeed, while also making access to many events as cheap as possible.

What the organisers now need are British spectators to mix going to the sessions of sports, with which they are familiar, with others, whose practice they barely know – Greco-Roman wrestling, for instance.

Of course, many sports will attract foreign visitors, who are followers of these sports, and they will boost the attendances. And it is important for everyone that the stadia for all sports are either full or as close to capacity as possible.

Foreigners will be able to get tickets through their own National Olympic Committees. However, for hundreds of millions of foreigners, the way they will see the Games is on television.

And here London has clearly weighed up the peak viewing times in the main TV markets as it has drawn up the programme.

Weekend events

So in athletics and swimming, most of the finals will be going out in the evening in Britain, which will be ideal for western Europe and much of Africa and still attractive on the east coast of the United States, which is five hours behind Britain with viewers there seeing events in the early or late afternoon.

Some of the weekend events which the Americans like, such as the men’s basketball final and one of the sessions of the boxing finals, will take place earlier in the day but since most Americans will not be working at week-ends, morning screening of these events in the United States, although not ideal, is still acceptable for NBC.

For the Far East, an increasingly important television market for the International Olympic Committee. certain sports are now being staged earlier in the day in London.

Judo, for instance, will be finishing just before midnight in Japan and the singles’ table tennis finals at the same time in China. And the rowing finals are now over four mornings rather than two as in previous Games.

Although not perfect for the European market, mornings are the best time, because of the water conditions, for the sport and it allows television companies across the world a greater spread of attractive events over a 24 hour period.

It has taken some time for Olympic organising committees to adjust their programmes more subtly to the demands of television but this is necessary for the health of the Movement because for the vast majority of people, television is how they will see the Games.

Selling stadium tickets is important for the IOC but TV ratings are more so.

** JOHN GOODBODY covered the 2008 Olympics for The Sunday Times, his 11th successive Summer Games and is the author of the audio book A History of the Olympics, read by Barry Davies, the BBC commentator. He was Sports News Correspondent of The Times 1986-2007, for whom he received journalistic awards in all three decades on the paper, including Sports Reporter of The Year in 2001

Keywords · John Goodbody · LOCOG · IOC · 2012 Olympic Games

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