The British love to queue. If queuing were an Olympic sport, we'd get gold every ruddy time, my uncle used to joke.
Well, yesterday I spent hours queuing at an Olympics. I didn't get a medal, but I did pick up a 'recycled' ticket for women's water polo for just £5. Result! Well, kind of.
Talk of 'recycled' tickets has left a lot of people confused at the Olympic Park this week. It has absolutely nothing to do with Locog releasing more seats – they're doing that online, via the official ticketing site.
'Recycled' tickets are for seats that have been used but then given up – a system also used at the Wimbledon Championships each year. They're only available for team sports played within the Olympic Park (eg hockey, handball and early rounds of basketball), as these have two matches in a single session.
When spectators leave after the first match (and many partisan fans do), their ticket is scanned on exit, and that seat becomes available on the computers at the ticket office.
These recycled tickets cost £5 for adults or just £1 for children under 16, compared with, well, hundreds in some cases. Although, of course, you only get to see one match, not two.
Sounds brilliant… Well, firstly, you have to be in the Olympic Park to buy a recycled ticket. And to get in the Olympic Park, you either need a ticket for another event or a £10 day pass (which sold out months ago).
I joined the queue at around 12.50. Florian, the very helpful 'Games Maker', explained that the first match was to kick off (er, splash off?) at 14.10 and that recycled tickets for the second match (15.30 KO), should be on sale at around 15.00. Then again, he said, there might not be any at all…
The sight of a queue next to a ticket office excites a lot of passers-by, many of whom think we're queuing to buy 'actual' tickets. Some know a bit about recycled tickets, but many are confused by the concept. It takes a lot of explaining. The 'Games Makers' do a great job.
'Is it worth it?' says one woman. 'Are you just waiting for tickets?,' asks another woman. 'Is the queue moving quickly?' asks someone else. There is one advantage to hanging around for tickets to a minor sport though – it gives you time to research the rules on a smartphone. I say this now, but I forgot to do it.
The water polo tickets finally go on sale at around 15.05. I hand over my fiver, dash to the arena, up about six flights of stairs and into my seat… just as the first game finishes. The atmosphere is electric, as Hungary have just beaten China 11-10 in a thrilling encounter.
'My' game wasn't quite as exciting as the first though. The Russian women (blue swimming costumes, white caps) beat Italy (also in blue swimming costumes, confusingly, but with blue caps) 7-4, and never looked like losing. In fact, would have been a rout if it wasn't for some fine goalkeeping. Er, goaltending?
There was genuine excitement in the crowd though… as news filtered through that Britain's Bradley Wiggins had won gold in the time trials.
Arrangements for 'recycled' tickets appear to be 'fluid'. For more information, we suggest you consult Games Maker staff at the Olympic Park.