Olympic Ticket Ballot: What Are Your Chances?

By London_Duncan Last edited 82 months ago
Olympic Ticket Ballot: What Are Your Chances?

Well, the curtain has come down on the first window of ticket buying opportunity for London 2012 and, as the dust settles and people see more clearly what they might be about to do to their bank balances (one family on the radio yesterday stand to cough up over £22,000) the question on most balloteers lips is, "What are my chances of getting what I've ordered?"

Having spent a couple of days pondering what Twitter and Facebook told us about people's choices on Sunday night, we've grown more confident that that's a plausible barometer of British public interest in tickets for the various events, but, of course, there's much more to the whole story. If 70,000 people apply across the price bands for any given athletics session you can get them in comfortably, but if the same number apply for the two trampolining sessions then at least 30,000 of them are bound to be disappointed (some might "win" twice). So, we added in venue size as a variable and gave numeric values to the messaging interest shown in our first article and that changed things round a bit. As an example, the appetite for both athletics and track cycling is clearly ferocious, but the velodrome has less than a tenth of the seats of the Olympic stadium, which caused cycling to register as the third hardest event to get tickets for.

However, this basically assumed each sport only had one event, when most have many more than that. That said, we're sensing that people are not using this ballot as a chance to snap up preliminary round volleyball tickets. When punters say, "I've put in to see a bit of the gymnastics and some swimming," we believe they usually mean they've taken a chance on grabbing some seats for a session with at least one medal to be won. If our hunch is right, we should add in to our calculations how many medal sessions there are for any given sport, on the assumption that not everybody applying for the rowing wants to see exactly the same final (we'll come to Usain Bolt later).

So, taking a pinch of salt in one hand, we present with the other our updated list of what we believe to be the likelihood, ticket for ticket, that you'll be successful in an application for one session of any particular sport. And the winner of the London 2012 Olympic gold medal for the hardest ticket to get is...


Almost as many people suggest they're applying for these as for the athletics, but there are only 18,000 tickets available in total over three sessions and we're guessing there aren't that many takers for the "seeding phase runs". If you win one of these, for goodness sake cling onto it. You had less chance of getting it than one of the £20.12 tickets for the opening ceremony. So what sports get silver and bronze...?

Mountain Biking

The issue here is not watching the event at all, as there is free general admission to both, it's that people seem to be applying for grandstand tickets and there are only 3,000 available at either Hadleigh Farm in Essex or Hyde Park. Just outside the medal positions we find, to nobody's great surprise...

Opening Ceremony
Closing Ceremony

We've worked on the assumption here that almost everyone has applied on the off-chance for the very cheap tickets, which brings the capacity down to, for the sake of argument, 16,000. And, of course, there's only one of each event. Your chances of pulling off that speculative punt on the 100m final tickets are probably about the same. There's a gap in probability before the next quartet:

Beach Volleyball
Water Polo
Cycling - Track

Beach Volleyball could be in a false position here because it's one of the events where people seem genuinely keen just see it at all and aren't so bothered about watching the medals being decided (two sessions only). Water polo is here because it has the smallest capacity, at 5,000,  of any "proper" Olympic site. There's lots of boxing to go around but also lots of people wanting to watch it and track cycling is saved from a higher placing because there are 6 medal sessions. After these there's another gap before we get to...


Basketball has far and away more demand than its neighbours here, but it also has, at 12,000 even before the big final across in North Greenwich, twice as big a venue. Heading to mid-table we find...

Table Tennis

Four of these are based in the Excel (as is the boxing), where the five halls can be configured to suit demand. Hockey is more popular, but like the basketball has its own, larger dedicated centre. The next three sports also benefit from large venues:

Synchronised Swimming

The conventional volleyball, hinted at on the Guardian website as a potential slow seller, is at Earls Court, the Synchronised Swimming takes over from Adlington et al in the 17,500 seater Aquatics centre and the Equestrian events, despite high demand, have five medal sessions playing to 23,000 spectators at a time in Greenwich Park. The next three contains a pair that's hard to quantify:


For tennis, we've gone with ground entry capacity of 30,000, which is the £20 ticket we think many are going for, but they're not available after the quarters and obviously capacities for Centre and No. 1 court are much tighter. Eton Dorney is another of those venues where general admission will be available, and again 30,000 is the quoted capacity, but we wonder how much rowing you'll get to see if you don't buy an actual seat, which many seem to be doing. Fencing, although popular on the continent and tucked away in the Excel, offers so many medal sessions you'd have to be a bit upset if you turned up and some weren't given out. And then suddenly, at just below half way on the scale of difficulty to obtain, three London 2012 behemoths suddenly hove into view:

Gymnastics (Artistic/General)

We had to blink and look twice, too. If the demand curve is actually linear (as we've basically assumed) rather than exponential (as it might be), then this position is right as they can all seat 17-20,000 spectators at any one of at least seven medal sessions. Obviously, if it's Tom Daley you've really got to see, then your chances are back at Usain Bolt levels. Now we tack into the top 10 of ticket easiness with:


Taken overall, football ought to be a lot lower than this as we suspect you'll still be able to walk up to a lot of the preliminary games in Coventry, Newcastle, etc on the day itself, but we think when people say "I've applied for some football," they mean something at Wembley, and probably either of the two finals. Sailing is quite popular, but has plenty of medal days and 17,400 seats to fill while weighlifting, perhaps suitably, offers the most opportunities to raise something metallic over your head with a mighty 15 medal sessions. The next two events could actually be amongst the best spectacles on offer:

Canoe Slalom
Modern Pentathlon

The brand new Lee Valley canoeing centre in Hertfordshire (as excellently described only days ago by Diamond Geezer) is holding a visual and visceral feast of an event that somehow seems to have generated little buzz so far, while the Modern Pentathlon could offer British medals in exciting finishes in front of the 23,000 seats in Greenwich Park left over from the main equestrian events. The tickets that let you follow the whole day including fencing and swimming looked good value, too. Into the top five in your chances of getting what you wanted it's:

Canoe Sprint
Rhythmic Gymnastics

If you love the idea of picknicking at Eton Dorney, but with plenty of room to enjoy your spread then these were the tickets to go for. Rhythmic gymnastics is a tricky one to judge demand for because people say they've applied for "the gymnastics" without specifiying whether they meant the conventional, Olga Korbut style version, or this derivation employing hoops and ribbons. We've assumed, especially since it's been sent to the opposite corner of London in Wembley Arena with the badminton, that unless people specifically mentioned the term "rhythmic" they were thinking more of parallel bars and vaulting horses. However, according to inital post-ballot reports, our messaging-based premise could be capsized in this case as it is suggested rhythmic gymnastics sales have been bolstered by local clubs applying en masse for a special day out. So then, in bronze medal position for the tickets you are most likely to get, be amazed that the answer is...


We're back to the linear vs exponential demand thing again, but for anyone wanting that once in a lifetime Olympic Stadium experience there are nine medal sessions and a bunch of morning heats. Assuming demand below insanity and that people have generally spread their bids out a bit you probably stand a much better chance of getting into the athletics than you think you do. If absolutely everybody has gone for category E the stadium seating plans could be interesting come next August, though. The silver medal goes to:


Again, part of the gymnastics family and there are only two sessions, but, rarely for the Olympics, they see first the men and then the women both compete from qualifiers straight through to medals in the space of a couple of neck craning hours in the North Greenwich arena which holds 20,000. But the gold medal for tickets you're most likely to get has to be, by some distance:


Unlike older cousin archery, which seems to have generated momentum through being at Lord's Cricket Ground, shooting, which offers 13 medal sessions down at the 7,500 seater Royal Artillery Barracks, seems at this moment to be London 2012's forgotten event. If you've applied for this, not only do you appear near certain to get in, there's an outside chance they might ask you to hold the ammunition while the competitors reload. Don't fall for that old one about fetching the targets back, though. Those pellets can be terrible to get out of denim.

Last Updated 27 April 2011