Olympic update

As the entire universe knows, London will host the Olympics next year. And there have been any number of surprises here, and the biggest surprise that that by and large they have all been positive. The only negative one that comes to mind, in fact, is the grotesque logo that the organizers picked, which is so grotesque that I’m not going to bother to reproduce it—you can fine it here if you’re so inclined. And if you go here, you can find out how much fun some people have been having with it. And it hasn’t been without other kinds of controversy, either. And then there’s this. And then there are the mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, about whom the less said the better.

But in general it’s been good. The biggest surprise is that it’s on time and maybe even on budget, although it will probably be close on the latter. This is so surprising that no one can quite believe it, and I’m hoping that it turns out to be true next year when they open. Not that everything is on budget, as it turns out—the Olympic Association seems have created some unnecessary problems for itself and is a bit short of cash for the athletes, as it turns out. But they’ve got a year to fix it.

We’ve actually been out to the site a couple of times, when we were doing our Capital Ring walk around London. The walk goes right by the site in a couple of places, and you can take a little detour and wander down the elevated path that has been set up for gawking, with a structure that looks like a very large, two-story duck blind to observe all the scurrying around of various machines designed to move large things. It’s pretty neat—there are exhibits, pictures by schoolkids, a little coffee shop, lots of plants hanging around, and lots of people, and this large construction site with all sorts of fun stuff to watch. And at this point a lot of completed or nearly-completed buildings.

Anyway, things seem to be moving along. The route for the Olympic torch is all set, and now they’re looking for people to help carry it. Not everything is gong swimmingly, of course, since the coalition budget cuts seem to be having an impact, or potential impact, anyway. Some targets have been scrapped. There is even a dispute between two Olympic organizations over money that doesn’t even exist yet. I’ve never lived in a place hosting the Olympics before, but I imagine this is normal.

Still, this is all pretty exciting. So we put in for our Olympic tickets about a month ago, amidst pretty onerous conditions. First, Visa cards only. Visa, you see, is an official sponsor. The problem is that very few people in the UK have Visa credit cards—most credit cards are MasterCard. The Visa cards that most people have are actually debit cards. So if you put in for a boatload of Olympic tickets, you better have that cash in the bank. So we put our order in, and then like everyone else, waited. Because you don’t just find out right away—it’s a large lottery. The Olympics people don’t tell you what tickets you’ve been awarded even after they have debited your account for several weeks.

And any number of people found out in the past day or two that they didn’t get any. The list is long, apparently, and is said to include our Mayor, Boris Johnson. Actually, I think it’s unlikely that Johnson won’t be able to get tickets. He is the mayor of a city that is holding the Olympics, after all. Probably a PR gesture of some sort. Still, it adds a nice frisson to the disappointment.

I think we may have gotten some, but I’m still not certain. In fact, our first payment failed, which give me some hope. It failed because a couple of weeks ago an ATM ate my debt card, so I had to get a new one. With new numbers, of course. And needless to say, I neglected to tell the nice ticketing people this. So we got an email two days ago saying that the card had failed, and if we didn’t get them the right info by tomorrow, we’re out of luck.

So I managed to get through to someone this morning with the new number, who told me “It went through.” Large sigh of relief. Of course he wouldn’t tell me how much the debit was actually for, so I don’t know whether we got some, or a little bit, or all of our order. All would be a stretch, I admit, but we put in for things like handball and badminton. Actually, our strategy was to put in for venues, not necessarily events. So we put in for something at the handball arena (hey, I grew up around New York), and one swimming event, and one track event, and so on. I’m more interested in the spectacle than observing the actual event, although I expect that some of those (the 400 meter hurdles, or whatever, that we put in for) will be quite exciting.

So I’ve been obsessing all day, and the payment still hasn’t hit the account. So now I’m worried again about something getting screwed up, which banks, of course are prone to do. Especially British ones. But I imagine I’ll find out soon enough.

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