Wednesday, August 1, 2012

BBC, Opening Ceremonies, and Ticket Backlash

Britain's Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (R) in 2012 Olympic Men's Cycling.

The BBC has had great coverage of Olympic events. After attending the men's road cycling race on Saturday, July 28, we returned home to watch Olympic coverage on the BBC until midnight. Two aspects of BBC coverage really impressed me. First, the announcers did not yap continually and that was wonderful! Second, there were few if any breaks for commercials. [I discovered later that the reason for an absence of commercials was that people are charged 145 pounds per year for licensing fees. It might well be worth it as I think about it!]. Unlike NBC which may have 7 minutes of coverage followed by 3-5 minutes of commercials, there was no need to flip around the channels since there was constant action shown on BBC. This allowed the announcers to include coverage of a greater variety of sports, while also going into depth about who medalled in events of special interest.

I especially enjoyed watching the coverage of Opening ceremonies in England with my friend from High School, Laura Stewart, now married to a native Londoner, Mark Bradshaw. Their insights gave me a greater appreciation of the meanings of various aspects of the presentation that began with a panorama of the English countryside (which I had just seen on my flight into England the night before), followed by an enactment of changes that occurred as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Of course, the scene with "Mr. Bean" took little explanation and was apparently John McEnroe's favorite part of the Opening ceremonies. Mine was probably the scenario with the Queen, especially since I got to pose for a photograph with her in Wimbledon Village the next day:-)

The fireworks and torch at the end were magnificent. I'm not sure what it would have cost to attend the Opening Ceremonies, but I'm sure it would have been far too expensive for me to afford to have been there. Which brings me to my next point... the (un)availability of tickets.
Tickets were especially difficult to find before coming to the Olympics - which discouraged many from making plans to attend the Olympics. Once here, I thought it might be easier to obtain tickets, only to find that there were few options available even for Londoners. It came as a surprise then to see so many unfilled seats at various venues, especially Wimbledon. Apparently I was not alone in making that observation, because several articles have appeared citing a ticket backlash amongst British fans. I can certainly understand why they were upset. Initially, Sebastian Coe (who was in charge of the organizing committee) explained that many empty seats (on Saturday) may have belonged to sponsors or family members of Olympians. He speculated that perhaps the lateness of the Opening Ceremonies may have accounted for many not showing up for early events. Yet, when huge chunks of empty seats remained open on Sunday, the backlash intensified, as reflected by the above article. Officials have promised to fill the seats in the remaining days. But what is the plan to do that?

Here are some of my suggestions: 1. Why not use seat fillers? At the Academy Awards, seat fillers are used to replace people who leave to use the restroom. In this case, fans who might have to wait in a queue would be more than happy to watch tennis - even at a reduced price - until or if the ticket holder showed up for their seats. And if that person showed up, why not let the seat holder find another seat nearby? A similar system was used at the Australian Open (in tennis) and seemed to work well. 2. One problem with using seat fillers is that those who paid exorbitant rates for tickets might be upset if newbies took nearby seats at a reduced rate. However, what if all tickets were offered at the same price? Again, at the Australian Open, all seats cost the same, so it wouldn't matter if someone seated in the last row got a chance to move down to the first row before allowing those who bought reduced rate tickets to fill in the remaining seats. 3. Wimbledon offers a solution at its grand slam by allowing those with tickets to turn in their stubs after attending so that waiting fans can re-purchase them (again, at a reduced rate) to re-enter and take over seats for remaining matches. The Australian Open had a similar policy and it kept people circulating into the more prestigious seats. 4. Both Wimbledon and the Australian Open also attract swarms of people who buy grounds passes to walk around to various courts. Many of them would more than likely be willing to stand in a queue if they knew they might have a chance to move into more attractive seats - especially on the covered Center Court. When the only court that is covered remains unfilled during rain delays, there should be no excuse for empty seats, especially when there are likely to be literally thousands of people who would be ecstatic to occupy those seats - if only for a brief time. Perhaps we need an "Occupy the Olympics" Movement here!

No comments: