A triumph of british ingenuity
It is quite something to have constructed a cock-up of truly epic proportions but in the Olympic ticketing allocation Lord Coe & Co have managed to do just that...while antagonising an entire nation at the same time, writes Basement Jack.
In the spirit of magazine solidarity it seemed appropriate to begin this column with a liberal dash of e-commerce. How many of you have, like me, received an email recently containing these immortal words: "Due to overwhelming demand for tickets, we are sorry that you have not been allocated the tickets you requested"? Many, if not most, of you in all likelihood. On receiving this polite dismissal from The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games how many of you, like me, wanted to slap the smugness from Lord Sebastian Coe's face? Many, if not most, of you in all likelihood.
Now dissatisfaction about the ticket allocation system has been registered in previous articles of mine but it's only now in the aftermath that the true extent of its genius has been revealed. You have to marvel at the breathtaking high-handedness with which it contradicted every single principle of sound e-commerce practice: it was a long-winded process, poorly explained, complex to use, vague in the extreme as to the products being bought, it deliberately narrowed the payment method only to take the money over an imprecise time frame in quantities arbitrarily chosen by the system...if indeed it chose any, which for most of us it didn't. It's the text-book example of how not to do it.
You have to marvel at the breathtaking high-handedness with which it contradicted every single principle of sound e-commerce practice
But the real artistry of this calamitous system is that it has managed to devour so much of the nation's goodwill towards the Games themselves. The Olympics now feel like this giant global party being held in our back yard to which everyone but the ordinary British public has been invited. So now rather than eagerness or anticipation, any mention of the Games is too often met by resignation or resentment. Now that has taken some real skill to achieve.
The sense of irritation and injustice has not been helped by reports that people in other countries have been able to acquire tickets through entirely sensible payment and allocation systems. In Germany (insert joke about putting towels down, here) notably people have been able to use a more traditional 'first come, first served choose what you want and pay for it' method. Would it have been so difficult for us to have used something similar?
It has all become a bit of an embarrassment with even Boris Johnson claiming not to have been allocated any tickets. Someone ought to make a note in their diaries to remind him that as the Mayor of London he may be required to attend for ceremonial duties - you know, to add a sense of gravitas.
Still we should give credit where credit is due, at least the organisers appear to have learned from their mistakes. There are strong rumours that alternative allocation strategies are being considered for the few tickets that remain and, if successful, they might be rolled out for use with the Paralympic Games in September 2012.
The first option being discussed allegedly focuses on tickets being distributed according to an applicant's favourite colour. While the specifics remain a little sketchy it's understood that an IOC-accredited colour chart is under construction, with each hue to be assigned a score ranking according to the degree to which they encapsulate the global diversity and ideals of the Olympic movement.
For example, those people who opt for a nice shade of vermillion, coral, aquamarine or taupe might score more highly than 'meat-heads who think the colour spectrum ends at red, white and blue' and thus will be allocated the tickets. There are thought to be critics of this approach within the organising committee, however. Dissent has apparently arisen over its determination that 'lemon' is a fruit not a colour and that 'cerise' better embodies the Olympic spirit of endeavour than does 'topaz'.
Should such disagreement prevent this methodology from being adopted, there is a suggestion that organisers favour a system that capitalises on Britain's taste for reality TV cooking shows - such as MasterChef. When the ticket allocation window opens, applicants will be invited to submit their most innovative and seasonal recipes based upon a selection of specially chosen Olympic ingredients.
When the ticket allocation window opens, applicants will be invited to submit their most innovative and seasonal recipes based upon a selection of specially chosen Olympic ingredients.
Those who make it through this initial stage will be invited to prepare their meal for an official panel of tasters in just 90 minutes. This panel will score the meal according to its flavour, presentation, texture and the degree to which it encapsulates the global diversity and ideals of the Olympic movement. It is understood that this idea has received warm support from many quarters, with only the matter of where to find a venue large enough to stage the 'ticket allocation cook-off' remaining a stumbling block. Both Twickenham and Wembley Stadium are thought to have been possible options.
However, a controversial ticketing system based upon applicants' willingness to construct marble temples deifying individual members of the organising committee appears to have withered on the vine. Despite the obvious benefits to the creation of an Olympic legacy, what with several thousand new pagan temples popping up around the British Isles, the potential for delays has almost certainly dissuaded London 2012 organisers. Delays and unfinished facilities have made other notable recent sporting events, such as the Commonwealth Games a laughing stock - and that's clearly something we want to avoid.
Whatever they decide to do, I'm not playing any more. In the years to come if I happen to be blessed with grandchildren and they ask me where I was when the greatest show on earth came to these shores it's an honest to goodness shame that I'll have to say "watching it on TV, just like the rest of the British people". It makes me mad.
If you'd like to comment on any of Jack's article or share rant about something that irritates you, email firstname.lastname@example.org. It might tempt him out of the cupboard, and maybe he'll write about what annoys you!