London 2012: Long Walk to the Venue

All along the way to the Olympics venue  you get to read such message. My  grandsons were inspired enough to do whatever it took to gain access to an Olympics event.  They had told friends in California that they were going to London to watch the Olympics.
Seven-year old Sidharth,  and Nikhil, who is 4 plus,  walked well over  over a mile,  and they went without so much as a drink of water on the long march to West Ham Olympics Park,  only to be turned back. No tickets. And they walked all the way back deeply dispirited,  and got drenched to boot,  in a  predictably  unpredictable turn of weather in  London.

Story –  on TV and and in  the British newspapers –  was that  stands at many Olympics event were going unoccupied. Because the corporate sponsors who had been allotted blocks of seats  didn’t have them filled. With the result athletes at several events performed  to empty blocks of  seats. Some half-hour or more into an event,  organizers,  presumably, with the consent of sponsors, released chunks of unoccupied seats for sale online. Snag was you never knew when,  and how far into a given Olympics event the empty seats went for online sale.  And whenever seats are released,  you find their website is either inaccessible,  or,  if  lucky, you are put on hold –  upto to 15-20 minutes  at time – only to be told at the end of the wait,  no more seats are available.  Determined ticket aspirants  repeat the routine,  for another  event.  Tickets hunt has turned into such fiercely competitive event  that someone could think of announcing a gold, silver and bronze to the top three strikes in online sales.

Our son,  after spending an hour or more on iPhone , suggested we go  to the Olympics venue and take our chances there. We heard from more than one London cabbie that this indeed worked with some. One of them  said he heard  on the telly that they let in,  free of charge,  several students and military folk.

On Friday last we –  my wife and I,  our son, daughter-in-law and the two kids  joined hundreds of other ticket hunters on, what turned out to be a long walk to the venue.  It was a 22-min walk to Olympics Park, from West Ham Underground train station. Admittedly,I was blissfully unaware of this. Had I been, I would have, probably, opted out.

The Olympics ticket walkers came in varied sizes, and from varied age-groups and walks of life. Platoon of volunteers were deployed to help them along a dedicated pathway from West Ham station to the Olympic Park. London attracts all sorts. A social activist parked himself at the pathway, hoping to mobilise support among Olympics walkers for his crusade againsr genocide in Congo. Admittedly, I was so tired and thirsting for a drink of water that I lacked the energy and inclination to reach out to take a leaflet from the activist.

This was our moment of truth and  end of the  line beyond which only ticket-holders were allowed to proceed. We were turned back.  Even as the volunteer broke the bad news politely our son started working  his iPhone,  hoping for  miracle to happen with a turn of luck  online.  As it turned out, we were caught in a spell of sharp shower  on our way back,  as if our spirits was not dampened enough.