Sep 24

SMW London: Alex Balfour and the Digital Olympics

It’s Social Media Week and I’ve managed to squeeze in enough time to head out to a few events in and around London. Given how many sessions at the Games I managed to get to, it was only fitting that the first session this week was to hear about the Olympics and how they worked on a digital platform. Alex Balfour was the Head of New Media for the London Olympics, starting with the team six years ago and this was a chance for him to talk about what happened, some of the challenges, wins and failures that the team experienced.

Given it was the Olympics, it was fitting he started off with a montage set to an inspirational song, what seems to be the natural result of distilling down thousands of hours of sports coverage.

The original brief when he took the job was to build 2 websites – a refresh of the current one and a gamestime website. In the end, he and his team delivered 77 channels. They were determined to go the extra mile, to make sure all the delivery teams made the most of the attention that digital could bring and that was the result. Here’s some of the insights and lessons that he had to share

  • he was surprised that over 60% of ALL visits were via a mobile device, something that was not expected when they started. However, there was not as much use of Location based services as he expected, with 600k Facebook checkins and 100k Foursquare ones.
  • The amount of data they were dealing with was HUGE – so much so that some of the apps they built for devices could not count and had to be scaled down (eg the cultural events listings)
  • there were 70 different stakeholders that needed to sign off things. That made things difficult at times!
  • The basic objectives were to support the business in what they needed to deliver and to make sure a database for emails was built. The mandate was clear and kept them focused – when they went off path, that could lead to failure. A digital team objective was to be most used digital channel ever (including beating broadcast partners. They also had to make the channels as accessible as possible
  • There were no sponsors responsible for mobile connection the arenas – but there were lots of meetings with carriers. Boris Johnson took an early interest in it and called meetings – which meant the right people came to them. In general the mobile data worked. The sponsor BT also provided both onsite general wifi for public and a bespoke, locked mobile network for the organisers to work with across the network of venues
  • They had a full comms plan, including crisis planning, that was developed by the communications team. The thing that moved the needle when it came to planning comms was when around 2 yearas ago, the national media started to use twitter to source stories and then come to the PR team to ask questions about them. That drove up its priority. In addition, monitoring social media allowed validation for the Press team that either something was important or that it was isolated and, for example, there was far more conversation about something else
  • When Alex interviewed, he did talk about social media and digital consumption trends. The question was about how the Games would get involved and how they would use the channels to showcase themselves. They did not go out and build a social network, but worked with the existing. They had started some work with a sponsor, about youth involvement, but this got shelved (was not on the core mandate). They had ideas with Facebook etc, but often not carried through as policy changed across time. 1 year out, they did a ‘support your team’ on twitter, which showed how they could shape conversations and get people talking about the Games – 180k tweets in that time. They repeated something similar during Games and got 1.5m tweets – Mongolia won the ‘league'; as their president got involved and encouraged the country
  • Email was the most effective tool for communication, depsite all the other channels.
  • He felt they could have made more use on in-venue entertainment and interaction using social media, with teams and audiences, but did not get off the ground everywhere. Also, some volunteer networks were started, but could not be scaled in time
  • One ‘last minute’ app that came together (with help of Samsung) was for the Paralympics when they gave 50 athletes devices to create video. They asked for at least 6 pieces each, they got over 1000 in total. (better control of video rights for Paralympics, something not possible with Olympics)
  • He was surprised that more sponsors had not activated strongly. Some did, others were less than expected. Potentially because this is a short term project and they invested in other areas that had better payback (or at least, better understood payback)
  • Athletes (and teams) activated the whole thing pretty well. the IOC launched an Olympic hub, they have 5k athletes signed up and their feeds go into it.
  • He was asked what was best practice on delivering – have the right governance and have brilliant people!
  • Alex just loved the whole project, felt is was great to be involved. he’s now looking forward to actually watching the Games!

This was a lovely talk with some great insights. For example. only 5% of Gold Medal winners ever go onto make a living out the sport. It was interesting to think back to when I heard him speak in 2008 when a lot was new and how the world has changed and how the Olympics and LOCOG embraced and worked with social media.

Sep 05

London 2012 Taekwando

Taekwando was one of the original tickets that I had. Well, not me, one of the two tickets that my sister had received in the very first ballot. The second event was later that day, diving. So down she came from the Midlands to make a day of it. First up was the Excel Centre, setting off early to brave the transport. No issues with transport, no issues with security meant we were there early. With the Excel, with plenty of different sports taking place, they herded you into holding areas, where you could get food and drink and wait around for the session to start. Once in the holding area, there was no getting out, so there was no wandering around looking at the different bits. There were huge queues for water here. Although there were 6 spouts, only 2 of them could be used to fill up bottles, so it was slow going.

London 2012 Taekwando

Sarah had bought budget seats, so we were up the top in the far corner, but it was still a pretty good view of the action. In fact, even the cheapest seats I’ve bought had good views – just further away than others. After a warm up act of ‘stunt’ kicks and tumbles, the action was under way. We got to see 2 British athletes, one of whom, Sarah Stevenson, was a favourite to win. Unfortunately, she didn’t and didn’t get through to the reps as her opponent lost later. The other, Lutalo Muhammad, also lost, in what appeared to be a far closer match. As his opponent got through to the final, he had a second chance in the reps and ended up with a Bronze later that day.

My sister is a 4th Dan (I think) in karate, so was able to cast an expert eye over proceedings, or at least an eye of someone who is used to fighting bouts. According to her, they were not aggressive enough and didn’t punch enough, but it’s a different sport so what do I know. I’d rarely seen fighting bouts, so had no idea what to expect but had a great time.

London 2012 Taekwando

Aug 30

London 2012 Paralympics: Opening Ceremony

I went to the Opening Ceremony last night. At this point, everything is slightly blurry! So much going on when you’re in the stadium that I don’t think the brain settles on one thing to remember. I was entranced with the umbrellas, slightly bored with the parade, clapping with glee at some of the flying athletes and in awe, and tears, at the flame lighting. I loved the ceremony, even if it ran way over, providing anxiety about getting home!

ON walking in, for the warm-up show, this is what was greeting us. None of the pastoral scenes from the Olympics, but a big stage. With lots of umbrellas dotted around. the story still had routes in The Tempest, but it was a different take, using Miranda as the focus, who takes a journey to find knowledge.

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

The umbrella scheme continued, as all of the initial dancers used them for props, for a canvas for the light show. Everybody danced around the big central umbrella, danced with them or flew in on the large ones around the edges

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Science, that’s what the rest of the show was mainly about. Science and the wonders that it can show and the wonders that people can do. Stephen Hawking was one of the star turns, complementing Ian McKellan. Hawkings’ words were projected onto the screens and rang round the stadium, about discovery and investigation and being curious. I was amazed. This was all about science and its power. I loved it.

It was a fairly short first act before we got onto the athletes parade. There were 164 countries and inevitably, they took far longer than planned. During this 2 hours or so, people were up and down, grabbing food, drink, loo breaks etc. There were polite cheers for the teams, some louder than others. Commonwealth nations were generally welcomed well, European nations were also well cheered, depending on who was there. But for most, this was just a waiting period. Finally, finally the GB team came out last, to huge cheers, flag waving and a standing ovation. The crowd was just, a little partisan. This is what we’d come to see!

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Some of the athletes did not stick around, doing a lap and heading straight out again. But most settled down into the seats provided to watch the third act. IF the first was umbrellas, the second the athletes, the third was all about apples. Back the science again, taking inspiration from Newton.

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

We had flying people in wheelchairs, men whirling with skirts on fire, a boat carrying Miranda traversing the sea in search of knowledge. It was a call out for the wonders of books and learning. It turned the stadium into the solar system and into the Large Hadron Collider. Hawkings and McKellen were back as narrators, guiding us on the journey. It was the breaking of glass ceilings, the demonstration that ambition should not be constrained by what others thought – or expected – you could do. That ended up with the largest ever co-ordinated apple crunch!

Then we got punk, with Spasticus Autisticus pounding out around the stadium and Alison Lapper rising in the middle of it

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Finally, the torch came into the stadium on a huge zip wire from the Orbit, before being passed to Margaret Maughan, Britain’s first ever ‘official’ Paralympic Gold from the 1960 games, who lit the petals.

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

The final event was Beverley Knight singing I Am What I Am..but at this point the stadium started emptying. It was running late and we had to get home! One benefit of this, is that if you were outside the stadium, you got a great view of the fireworks!

London 2012: Paralympic Opening Ceremony

The mad dash for the exits started. The crowd was controlled, I got on a Jubilee line easily then remembered – change at West Ham for District. yay – the tubes were running later than my app was telling me and I was on my way home. No buses and few taxis available, but I finally got home just over 2 hours after I left.

Brilliant night, loved the show and I’m going to have to watch bits to work out what happened in some of them. Loved that the focus was science and learning and the power of the human spirit. Bring on the Games!!!

Aug 29

London 2012: Showjumping

My final event of the weekend was one of the first ones I booked – the showjumping at Greenwich Park.

Getting there

I’d decided to eschew the most obvious route, which was DLR to Greenwich and took the overground to Blackheath. Again, as with almost every trip I made, there were no issues. A long walk, but no issues! Guides were plentiful on the walk, pushing you across the heath to the entry point. This was way at the south of the venue, on the heath, before you entered the Greenwich Park area, but served its purpose. A few queues, a few holds to minimise congestion and security was traversed safely again. Then another, very long walk down to the arean, which was by the Greenwich buildings.

London 2012 : Show jumping

The Venue

Greenwick Park is big – that’s why they could hold the cross-country there. The area itself was wonderful – it held the all the jumping and dressage events. A large, separate catering area, toilets in every block (which had drinking water on tap), and plenty of great volunteers again. The water situation again led to long queues – it was only after I’d queued that I was told the washroom taps were potable as well, something that was not spread around. Seats were good, all the sightlines were good, so overall, an excellent place.

London 2012 : Show jumping

The Event

Equestrian events were one of the very first sports I started following. As a child, I’d learnt to ride a horse and taken part in a few dressage and show jumping events. Not very well, but it’s a sport I knew enough about, including taking trips to various showjumping meets. So unlike all the others, I’d seen it before!

This was the second round for the individual event and the first round for the teams. The target was to get a great score for the teams and to qualify in the top 40 for the next individual round. I had a great seat up high in one of the side stands, directly above the finishing fence, so got some lovely photos!

London 2012 : Show jumping

Although photos were great most of the time, not when it was raining. Open stands means umbrellas, for those that had not prepared for the weather by bringing ponchos and waterproofs. Which meant grumpy people who couldn’t see. But when the sun came out, all was brilliant!

The other thing that I could see was annoying to the jumping fans was the fan reactions. Like everything else, most people in the arena were not horse fans – so when British people came in the tendency was to cheer. Loudly. This had obviously upset some of the horses, as there were clear warnings before the British team riders came in to keep the noise down. Which was surprising, as I’ve been to indoor arenas and the crowd is generally loud!

London 2012 : Show jumping

So once the rain had stopped and the crowd cheering was contained, I had a brilliant time. Some great horses on show, the best jumpers in the world. One thing about showjumping is age is less of a barrier, so riders ranged from teens up to their sixties – and the fans had an even wider age range.

London 2012 : Show jumping

I left the same way I’d arrived, via Blackheath. Lewisham Council had set up a big screen on the heath and the Andy Murray tennis final was playing. So nothing for it but to stop, sit and watch more sport, cheering along with everyone when he was doing well. And then huge, huge cheers when another gold medal for Britain was grabbed. Another medal seen on the TV, none yet seen in person.

Aug 19

London 2012: Football

For my second event on the middle Saturday, I dashed out of the Olympic Park, jumped on the Jubilee Line and headed right across London to see some Football. Here’s a sport I could easily see for 9 months of the year on the TV and would find it easy to find a match to go to every weekend but I’d only ever been to one football match before (Celtic vs Ajax in the Champions’ League). But as it’s the Olympics AND I’d never seen Wembley Stadium, thought it would be good to add to my list of sports.

The journey was great, the people management was great and it was all nice and smooth. The only issue was when my self-printed ticket did not work properly. for some sports, they appear to have been emailing tickets to people to self print and the scanner was not picking it up correctly. The volunteers in this case were little help, seemingly suspicious that is was a paper ticket, but a little perseverance and the scanner eventually worked.

London 2012: Football

Wembley is well used to hosting large crowds and it appeared the match stewards were the same ones as would normally be there. The football stadiums had their own rules – you were not supposed to take in DSLRs for example. They also would not let you take alcohol into your seat, unlike all the other venues I went to. But overall, it worked well.

The match was Mexico vs Senegal. I sat next to quite a few Mexican fans, although it appeared that many in the stadium were neutral – British fans after some Olympic experience. The first half was OK, not brilliant, but average football. The second half picked up a lot more and there was a lot more energy in the match.

London 2012: Football

Having only really watched football on the TV, there was not as loud a crowd as some league matches, with little singing or chanting :-) But somethings seem to be the same – the deployment of stewards at the end, presumably to prevent a pitch invasion??

I left 5 mins early for the match, which was a shame, as it went into extra time, but it meant my journey home was easy. Those staying on were not as luck. The Stadium and Wembley Arena both emptied out at the same time and that led to the tube stations being closed for a while.

I’m still not convinced that football belongs in the Olympics. There were plenty of comments during the games about the difference in attitude between footballers, with their salaries and their dramatics on the pitch, comparing that to the attitude of the other athletes. Even if restricted to the under-23’s, the sport definitely needs to learn lessons from those who struggle to get enough money to make training sessions.

London 2012: Football

Aug 19

London 2012: Water Polo

Once the Olympics had started I decided I hadn’t got enough tickets. My sister was sharing the one’s she’d got in the initial lottery, I had bought some in the follow up lottery and from the EU site. But now I’d been to my first event, I’d seen the empty seats and LOCOG were releasing new tickets everyday. it was time to turn on my lucky clicking finger and get searching on the convoluted ticketing database. There was such a demand created for tickets that everytime some were released, the site ground to a halt, putting people in queues, with long wait times. If you only had 3-4 minutes max wait, you were probably going to be fine. Anything longer, no tickets for you!

Although I’d constantly look for events such as Athletics or Swimming or Cycling, the exciting ones, so did everyone else. They were very rare and I was unlucky. So I looked for other events, that I may not have seen, just to experience the Olympic atmosphere again. First of these was Water Polo. I’d watched it occasionally, seen the odd ‘how to play water polo’ feature, but had never experienced it live. Although, to be fair, I’d never seen most of the sports I went to live.

Water Polo was being held in a temporary structure, next to the Aquatic arena. Purpose built for this sport.

London 2012: Water Polo

During the session, I saw two matches. First was Romania vs Montenegro, then Australia vs Croatia. And I loved both matches. The action was fast and furious and interactivity very ‘vigorous’ – by which I mean it seems to be a pretty heavy contact sport. Players seem to develop a very exaggerated swimming action that just seem to land heavily on the opposition! I’ve no idea what was going on underwater, but I’m guessing there was as much jockeying for position.

Most of the action was around the goals; in that it was similar to handball, which I saw later in the week. One team has the ball around the goal, passing between themselves until they try to score, then it gets thrown to the other end for a repeat. Very little action in the middle of the pool.

London 2012: Water Polo

This sport had another odd volunteer role. Showjumping had the muck scoopers, who ran out in the breaks to clear up the horse muck from the course. Water Polo has the ball boys, whose job is to swim out and place the ball in the middle for each half. They sit there in their dressing gowns, collecting the balls when they get thrown out, just stripping off to put the ball in the middle of the pool. I wonder if they had a set of trunks in the volunteer colours?

London 2012: Water Polo

Aug 06

London 2012 Beach Volleyball

My third Olympic sports trip was to see the beach volleyball. There’ll be no legacy from the construction of this area – for some reason, beach volleyball takes place in the heart of government, right next to Downing Street on Horseguards Parade. There was obviously some interesting thinking going on when this decision was made, but it paid off, the location is gorgeous!

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

The whole of the Mall is cordoned off during this part of the games, which can’t make getting around London by car too easy, but makes it easy to get to the event. Volunteers were everywhere, dotted every 10m or so, keeping you moving, keeping you on the right side of the road and moving you through security. As at the tennis, security was easy, just a small fast-moving queue and straight through the scans.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

Inside, the same stalls as in the Olympic Park, non-branded as usual, loads of loo blocks and loads of volunteers ready to answer your questions and keep everything fun. Initially feeling quite empty, the grandstands soon filled up.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

There were 4 matches on the programme, each scheduled for an hour from 8pm. Two men and two women’s matches. The women’s clothing seemed to disappoint the men in the audience, they were fully covered up. Apparently special dispensation has been given from the governing body for the London Olympics to allow more clothing to be worn and I think they’re right. It was COLD out there especially when it started raining. But the entertainment – a group of dancers who appeared between matches and in time-outs – were dressed for the sun rather than the rain.

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

I’ve seen beach volleyball on TV, so rules are pretty straightforward to understand. Just in case, they played the how-to video for the crowd before the first. However, the whole set up of the evening appeared to want to distract you from the sport. There was music between each point, there were calls from the announcer. There were congas and dancing and crowd shots. And all the time, people just coming and going, moving around. This was not a tennis or golf crowd, no respect for play here. In fact, that was the deliberate atmosphere encouraged by the organisers. The game itself seemed to be less important than the party. Fun, but not quite right for me…

London 2012: Beach Volleyball

So go with a bunch of friends, have a beer and have a laugh and you’ll have a great time. Enjoy the view!

Jul 30

London 2012: A day at the tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

Saturday was the first of my eight events (that I currently have…I’m looking for more!). It was a day at the tennis, Wimbledon, somewhere I’d never managed to get to when the Championships are on so I was really looking forward to the opportunity to take a look at the place.

First impressions – small! A lot smaller than it feels on the TV. Then how well put together it is. It’s obviously a permanent structure that has developed over the years and it knows how people move around it. It’s just been plastered with Olympic branding.

Getting there was straightforward. Train to Putney (where I found the street lined with people waiting for the men’s cycling road race to go by) then one stop on District Line to Southfields before the 15 minute walk to the venue. Getting back was just as straightforward – no problems at all with getting transport. I’d turned up just as the gates were opening, so the queues were very, very long but they moved quickly and security was easy to get through.

We were called to go along to the hill for a ‘special surprise’. Sitting down, waiting for it to start, I was surprised at how many young women appeared to be in the audience – had there been a student offer? It turned out that they weren’t the typical tennis audience…they were part of the special surprise. A ‘flash mob’ of dancers got everyone cheering before the Pet Shop Boys turned up for a few songs

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

After all that entertainment, it was time for the tennis. I had a seat on centre court and settled in for the day. We had the pleasure of four matches, including seeing the two reigning Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and British player Anne Keathavong. The celebrity spotting was high as Michelle Obama popped in to see Williams.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

It was definitely not like normal Wimbledon; it was bright and brash. Music was playing in between matches and the people watching seemed to be a different crowd from what you saw at the regular games – more noisy, less likely to quieten and sit down for serves. There was also more of a patriotic crowd – turning up to see their national players and then seemingly going. That contributed to the lots of empty seats that were obvious, both in blocks and scattered around the grandstands.

This was the scene for the most watched match on the day, the Federer match. Plenty of court side seats available – the most expensive ones. This was a theme of the day in many, many venues. Given how short the supply was, how many wanted to go but could not get tickets, why weren’t these being filled? For the final match of the day, with a British player, it was even worse.

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

London 2012: Wimbledon Tennis

The unfilled seats became the national story on Saturday and because of my tweets, by comments got picked up by the BBC for a news story and then I ended up heading east to take part in an talk show on the World Service, talking about empty seats and all other things Olympic, which was great fun :-) There were about a dozen people, BBC reporters, bloggers and other people who had been at the event discussing seating, cycling and the other events of the day.

BBC World Service at the pub

Jul 29

London 2012: The Opening Ceremony

Did you watch it? 27 million people in the UK are reported to have watched the show, the biggest UK TV event in the 21st century. At £27m, that’s a cost of a pound per person, pretty good value I think. You’ll have noticed that last week I went along to the technical rehearsal and had a sneak peak at some of the elements, but we didn’t see it all, so I tuned in on Friday ready to watch the whole thing.

My initial reactions too the pastoral scenes were fed, in part, by the media. It was cute, it was old fashioned, what are they going to do next

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

The songs from around the nation, had me welling up; I love a good patriotic hymn. And the the drums started, filling the stadium with sound and feeling, driving the clearing of the pastoral scenes and turning it into an industrial nightmare.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

This was the bit that had me gasping in the stadium, sitting quite low down and not being able to see it all, it was brilliant to see the whole picture on tv, see what has happening across the stands and then to see HOW the ring was forged. All I saw was the rings moving from the sides and then the bright molten one rising from the ground to join them, in, for me a symbol of hope. This was just amazing.

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We didn’t see the James Bond cutscene in the rehearsal – we heard the music, saw the helicopter, but had no idea what was going to happen. So a just laughed out loud when watching the clip. How did they get teh Queen to do that – and what other country would try something as insane!

Dancing Nurses, flying Mary Poppins, the Child Catcher and Voldermort. What a fun sequence. You could see that everyone was getting into it – especially the children. They performed Monday, Wednesday and Friday, did they ever get any sleep because they were obviously excited!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

We heard the music for the next change scene, with Chariots of Fire, and caught a glimpse of Atkinson at the end, but the skit (and video) again were hidden to save the surprise, another brilliant execution. The final bit that we saw on the Monday was the dance section. One thing they did not show on the TV was everyone banging their heads to Queen – we’d practised it in the run-up to the song, and I saw the queues in the stadium, but they did not show the audience. A pity, because that was a fun moment!!

Olympic Opening Ceremony Rehearsal

For us, that was it. We did not get the reveal of Tim Berners-Lee (and wonderful touch, tweeting from the middle of the show), We did not see the memorial dance nor the torch scene, which was one of the best kept secrets ever. I loved that they used young athletes for this, nominated by Olympic heroes. All of the speculation passed for nothing with that decision, doing something really different. passing on the toch to the future.

The challenge for the UK was always ‘to beat’ China. but how can we play that game. We didn’t plan to beat them; Danny Boyle just played a different game. A massive pageant, staffed by volunteers, with humour and awe-inpsiring moments. With all that symbolism, then why did the show close with Paul Mcartney doing what he always does. Nothing different, the same old Hey Jude with no surprise or re-interpretation. for me, that just brought a small sour note to the whole show. So off the TV went before the first verse was done and that was my night over.

Jul 28

London 2012: the torch relay

London 2012 Torch Relay

Our office is in Southwark and on Thursday 26th July it was perfectly placed for the torch relay. Just after 10am,t he torch was due to go right by the office. Some crowded the windows for an overhead view. Caroline and I decided that we needed a ringside seat. So 45 mins before, we headed outside with our chairs for a meeting – and, to be fair, we actually did have a meeting, before packing away and getting ready for the torch to come by. Right on time, the sponsor buses made their way past

London 2012 Torch Relay

And then finally the torch..just a brief glimpse as it ran by to the kiss point on the corner

London 2012 Torch Relay

And on Friday, we had another chance to see the flame, as it came down the Thames on the Glorianna. A slight mistiming meant we were slightly too late to see the flame go by the closest point, but a mad dash down the bank got us to London Bridge where the final (but one) stage of the relay was to happen, as the torch got passed to City hall for safe keeping before its star turn tonight.

In both instances, what was so, so apparent was everyone’s enthusiasm. This was an EVENT…something everyone wanted to be part of. They stood on balconies and in windows, on cheery pickers on on top of walls. They ran down the side of the towpath and tried desperately to get a glimpse of what was happening at London Bridge, standing on tiptoes to peer over the heads, or raising arms high to snap photos in hope of getting a shot. The buzz was palpable and excitement was high. This was not just tourists, but office workers and local families, out to take part in the biggest event they are ever likely to see in London. Let’s bring on the Games, London is ready!

Torch Relay

Torch Relay

Jul 25

London 2012: Queueing for Cosport tickets

I’ve been quite lucky with my Olympic tickets. Following my initial disappointment of not getting any tickets in the initial ballot, my sister asked me to accompany her to her Taekwando and Diving events. I also got a ticket in the resale, – for people who did not get any in the first round – and I’m off to the Modern Pentathlon. I then did some digging, realising as we’re EU members, I can buy tickets from any EU agent. Off to take a look at Cosport, as recommended by a NZ friend (they’re official agents for US, Canada, Australia and certain EU counties, which means no issue in my buying from them).

The Cosport website was a LOT simpler than the London 2012 one. You could see everything that was available on a single page, instead of having to keep clicking on different events. Far simpler to glance and see what tickets were there for the events you wanted. Buying was simple and they sent plenty of information through before the event.

But then came the collection. I’d decided not to have my tickets posted, deciding that as I’d have to make a trip to the post office anyway to pick up the tickets, I may as well pick them up at the desk and save postage. In hindsight, not the most sensible idea – given how their first day of collection went. Following up on the stories earlier in the month about Cosport selling sponsor tickets, you then had complete chaos at the collection point on the first day. There were long, long queues, 7-8 hours for some. There was no organisation and no news about what was happening. for some, who’d ordered multiple tickets, they were not seated together. They were the lucky ones – many tickets seemed to have gone missing and could not be found ‘out back’

By today, things had improved. They had a tent up to shelter you from the sun. They gave out water and wandered around the lines, checking up on if you were OK. I waited 55 minutes before getting in and out in 5 minutes, a pretty simple process. But the delays are still there and some problems are – there are still issues about tickets lost and seats not together, so there have been some major mistakes made

So the queues may have been sorted – the general organisation seems to be lacking at the moment