London 2012 Olympics schedule and ticket prices released

If you’re thinking of going to the London 2012 Olympics, now is the time to start planning.

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games has just released the competition schedule and ticket prices. The race is on for tickets, hotel reservations, and flights. Personally I’m avoiding the whole thing. London’s transport system is chaotic at the best of times, and an influx of hordes of sports fans isn’t going to do it any good. My family and I spend every summer in Oxford but we’re headed elsewhere in 2012. Being only an hour from London, rental prices in Oxford are sure to hit the stratosphere.

While the Olympics will be a royal pain in the ass for the English, it promises to be a memorable event for everyone else. The organizers boast there will be “19 days of sporting competition. . .over 640 sessions, across more than 300 events, 39 disciplines, and 26 sports.” If you love seeing the best athletes in the world competing live, this is the place to be.

For those of you planning to brave London in 2012, tickets go on sale March 15 and are sure to be snapped up quickly. You can register on the site to make purchasing quicker once tickets do go on sale. This is especially important if you’re outside the UK and Europe because you’ll have to apply for tickets via your local National Olympic Committee (NOC) starting March 15. For the Paralympics you need to get tickets from your National Paralympic Committee (NPC) starting September 9. Some NOCs and NPCs may appoint an Authorised Ticket Reseller (ATR) to sell tickets. If you register with the site via the above link, they’ll send you information about how to get tickets from an acronym near you.

And don’t forget to reserve a hotel or flat early, early, early. You might want to consider staying outside of London to avoid the crowds. Oxford, St. Albans, and Hertford are three pleasant towns all about an hour away by rail or bus and all have local attractions worth seeing.

Beijing 2008 Olympics tickets: Watch out for sketchy online offers

Quick quiz: Click on this site for Beijing Olympics tickets. Now, click on this ticket site. What’s the difference? The first is official, the second is not. They look pretty much the same, right? That’s the point, and that is what’s scary. The second link is clearly some ticketing warehouse. Note the text along the top of your browser — Champions League? Euro 2008? But, you say, I want Olympics tickets! — and the glaring typo in the welcome message. Go ahead and click on ‘About Us’.

The Washington Post‘s crack travel team outed a sketchy Olympic ticketing site this past weekend in their “Coming and Going” column. Having been alerted by a reader to a suspicious site — — CoGo, as the column is playfully referred to, made some calls. A few things didn’t add up: The site gives a UK phone number and a Phoenix address. The company running the site — XL&H — is either a public or a private enterprise, depending on which part of the site you happen upon. It is registered in Delaware. The Post notes all this, but couldn’t turn up any Delaware registration for the company. When reporters tried to contact the company through the e-mail given on the site, they received a vague response about all tickets being available for pick-up in China. The paper also turns up some interesting fine print items.

What really matters in all this is that, as the Post notes, this particular site pops up first in most standard Google searches for Olympics tickets, which could lead some to see it as more official than it might be. Ditto for the second and third hits that come up on most searches, the Post reports.

The Olympics are a scant five months away. Individual events have been sold out for months, and the scramble is on to secure packages and miracle one-offs. This is not to say that you cannot go through alternative channels to obtain hard-to-get seats, or that Web sites advertising tickets are necessarily scams. But you should be careful and you should have a pretty good idea where you’re sending your money.