The Olympic lottery

People don't half like to whinge.  It seems like it is particularly prevalent at the moment, but I suspect it's really an artefact of the number of different forums where it can now be done.  Blogs, websites, newspapers, radio stations, television shows: all cater for (indeed, clamour for) the most vociferous complaints from the most voluble of plaintiffs.

And right now, one of the top whinging topics seems to be the allocation of tickets for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I wanted tickets.  I wanted to go and see some of the world's finest sportsmen and women competing in their chosen events in a sporting extravaganza being held in my home country.  I also realized, however, that there would be other people wanting similar things.

So when it came to applying for tickets I decided to choose sports that might not be so popular (and therefore, to my mind, more interesting).  Archery at the home of cricket sounded good, as did a bit of a ping-pong ding-dong, whilst I was very curious about handball and water polo, not knowing much about them.  And then there was the prospect of some super-heavy-weightlifting:

1984 Olympics - Super heavyweight weightlifting

I fancied a bit of athletics too, though, so I applied for a couple of the morning sessions.  All-in-all, I bid for about £350-worth of tickets.  I knew I wouldn't get them all.  I knew that there was a lottery system operating, and that if my name wasn't drawn out of the electronic hat, I wouldn't get those tickets.  I went in with optimism, and only a little expectation.

When my allocation was announced this week, I was a bit disappointed to find that all I'd ended up with was a pair of tickets for the water polo.  But such is the nature of a lottery.  You buys your ticket, you takes your chance, and only some people will be successful.  I was lucky to get any tickets at all.

The organizers have to generate interest, in order to sell as many tickets as possible.  To do it the way they did may have been frustrating in some ways, but it was pretty fair.  Rather than letting everyone jump onto the website in a mad rush, clamouring for everything they could grab in a first-come, first-served basis, they let people apply for a ticket lottery over a much longer, more-considered period.

A random system means that some people will get all their tickets, some will get some, and some will get none.  It might not be fun, but it's fair.  To complain about it is perfectly within your rights, but also rather tiresome, and also only really justifiable if you have a better idea to offer.

I don't like the corporate aspect of the Games, the freebies and beanos that come with having your brand added to the list of sponsors, but it is an inevitability of the way modern sport works.  You want a big show, you get big business to bankroll it.  It might not quite be what William Penny Brookes had in mind when he began the Olympian Games, but that's rather like expecting railway companies to still sell tickets at a price of one penny per mile.

And, hey, if you're really so bothered about fair play and the Olympic ethos, then why not come along to the original Olympian Games instead?