Your guide to getting London 2012 Olympics tickets

I went to the Olympics for the first time in 2008, and had the most amazing experience. If you’re someone that enjoys sport (any sport) it is an experience of a lifetime.

The ticketing process opens Tuesday, March 15th: 500 days before the Opening Ceremonies. This post is a guide to (most) everything you want or need to know about getting tickets to the London 2012 Olympics.

The basics

Application window, not sales
If you think you need to get your request in first thing on March 15th, don’t. There is a six-week application window during which you can submit your ticket application. All requests received during this window are treated equally. When the window closes, the London 2012 committee will evaluate how many applications were made for each session and price-point of ticket. There is then a lottery/matching process to allocate the actual tickets, and you find out what you get at the end of that.

What starts in March is the application for tickets, not the sales themselves.

Secondary market
Yes, there will be a secondary market for tickets. According to the London 2012 ticketing website, once you apply for tickets you’re committed to purchasing the tickets you are allocated. But there will be an official ticket resale programme run by London 2012. Additionally, there are always unofficial channels for reselling tickets.
What you need to plan
You must visit the London 2012 ticketing website to view the full competition schedule for the 2012 Olympics. There’s a complete PDF, and an individual PDF for each sport. It lists the dates, times, locations, and ticket prices for each session in the Olympics. It details which exact events are included in each session, so you can pick out exactly what you want to see. (Though for knock-out competitions like football, beach volleyball, etc., you won’t know who will be competing until the Games themselves.)

Key advice

Events subject to supply and demand. (Some are not obvious.)
Some sports are fairly easy to get tickets for; they’re held in large venues and not as popular a sport. Some are very hard: I specifically remember swimming being nearly impossible to get tickets for in Beijing. The venue for swimming isn’t very big, and nearly half of the available space was taken up by world-wide press! The demand for tickets roughly correlates to the TV popularity of a given sport; swimming, gymnastics, athletics are quite popular. Weightlifting, shooting, and modern pentathlon less so.

Also, you can certainly try to apply for Opening Ceremonies tickets, but there’s so few left over after sponsors and athletic associations and governments get their tickets, there will hardly be any available. Just so you have appropriate expectations…

Remember this when applying; you’re unlikely to get all of the tickets you want, and even less likely when they’re very popular events.

Lesser-known sports can be incredibly cool
This surprised me a bit based on my Beijing experience, but’s absolutely true. The B finals in weightlifting (where they aren’t even eligible for medals) were just as riveting as any other sport I saw. I also saw Greco-Roman wrestling for the very first time and it was awesome! The organizers in Beijing had flyers at the entrance of each venue with information and rules about each sport, so if you weren’t familiar you could quickly get up to speed.

Fundamentally, the athletes at the Olympics are the very best in their particular sport. They have usually trained for years and years to get to that point, and are at their peak physical condition. Any sport where the very best athletes are competing with so much on the line is awe-inspiring.

Cheap tickets can still be great seats
This is something else I’m really glad I learned in Beijing. There really are no bad seats at a venue. The organizers go out of their way to install large screens so you can see the closeups of what you want, and scoreboards are everywhere. Certainly the more you’re willing to spend, the better the seat you’ll get. But even if you get tickets in what seems like the nosebleed section of the Olympic Stadium, you’ll still have a great experience. (That’s where LondonAnnie and I had tickets in the Bird’s Nest in Beijing, and we had a fantastic time.) Cheap seats at the Olympics are still good tickets.
Where you buy your tickets depends on where you live.
Buying tickets depends on where you reside. The London 2012 ticket site is for residents of the UK and (most) European countries. If you’re a resident of the USA, Canada, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Austria or Bulgaria, is where you need to register to apply for tickets. If you have any questions, check the London 2012 site here regarding eligibility.
Think about locations and travel time
While most venues are in/around the Olympic Park (Stratford), the Docklands (East London) or Central London, not all of them are. Rowing is an hour journey from central London, sailing is on England’s south coast, and most football (soccer) matches are spread all over the country. Be sure to understand where each sport is located, particularly if you’re interested in seeing multiple sports in one day. (Which you should!)

Also, this is a great opportunity for people elsewhere in the country to experience the Olympics without traveling to London.

Free public transportation
If you hold an Olympic ticket for any event on a particular day of competition, public transportation will be free. So don’t worry about costs and how you’ll get from venue to venue; it’ll be sorted for you and be free.

Recommended Strategies

Request as many tickets as you can afford
Tickets can quickly get expensive, so you understandably can’t apply for all of the tickets you want. (And you’re obligated to buy all the tickets you’re allocated, even though you could resell them later.) But you’re also not likely to get all of the tickets you apply for because of supply and demand. Evaluate how much you’re willing to spend, and apply for as many tickets as you can.
“Go deep” on one sport
I like/recommend the strategy of choosing one sport, and then bidding for better tickets and a deeper experience that sport. It’s great to get into one sport and really enjoy the full experience, from qualifying rounds to medal rounds. (Though for some sports, you’ll definitely still have to pick and choose!) But you can then combine this with cheaper tickets in other sports, so your money gets you to as many events as possible.
Be sure to include at least a few sports “off the beaten path”
Some of the lesser known sports can be fantastic experiences. The athletes are truly in it for the love of the sport; they’re never going to be famous even if they win gold. The drama of these athletes competing at the pinnacle of their sport is really one of the best things about going to the Olympics, and I’d highly recommend seeing some of the sports that are “off the beaten path.”


When you apply for Olympics tickets, it pays to be prepared. Think about how much you’re willing to spend, look into all of the sports, and have a strategy when applying. Then submit your application and wait for the results.

No matter what tickets you end up getting, you will absolutely enjoy the experience. The Olympic games are like nothing else.

History of my 2008 Olympics experience

These are links to the photos and blog posts of my 2008 Beijing Olympics experience. It will hopefully give you an idea of what to expect.
2008 Beijing Olympics photos (2628 photos) — by LondonAnnie

2008 Beijing blog posts

Photo at the top is from LondonAnnie here:

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