We were working out our jetlag on a three-day layover in London in 2012, which just so happen to coincide with the games of the 30th Olympiad. We were dinning one night in a restaurant near Earl’s Court when I noticed a guy wearing a California license plate as a necklace and Old Glory around his neck like a superhero’s cape, and I thought this guy might know something about the games.
“There are no tickets available, and no scalpers selling tickets,” he told me, and though disappointed to hear the news, we decided to go out to the Olympic Stadium the next day and at least have a look around.
We rode the underground to East London to join the throngs of fans making the 20 minute trek from the station to the Olympic Stadium. Clumps of fans stood on the sides of the walkway with handmade “I need tickets” signs, but no one was selling.
After seeing what we could from outside the stadium’s fences and snapping a few photos, we walked back towards the underground station. I’d pretty much given up on the idea of getting into an event when out of nowhere an older man in the crowd shouted out, “Anyone need one ticket for tonight’s track & field”?
I quickly walked over to him “How much do you want for it?” I asked.
“As close to face value as I can get.” He said.
The ticket’s face-value was 150 pounds ($225) which I happily paid in this seller’s market. We introduced ourselves and discovered that we were both from California. His name was Steve and he told me that I’d be sitting with his wife Betsy and her friend Susan.
That night I entered the stadium filled with spectators showing their national pride. My seat turned out to be in the: Nordic men with Viking hats and Face-Painted Poles section.
I found my seat and said, “Hi Betsy and Susan, I’ll be playing the part of Steve tonight.” They were friendly track-enthusiasts from the bay area who’d brought binoculars and a Track & Field magazine. In chit-chatting with them during the course of the night I found out that Steve, was actually Steve Clark who had won 3 gold medals in swimming at the 1964 Olympics. I was so glad then that I didn’t try to cut his price!
The track & field events that night now seemed kind of secondary to me after learning that I had purchased my ticket from a three-time Olympic champ, but I settled in and watched the men’s 1500, long jump, women’s 100, women’s discus, and finals for the men’s shot put, and the women’s 10,000. It was inspirational and emotional watching athletes from around the world getting a chance to live out their dream before me.
Seeing the Olympics was a great bucket list check-off for me, and the experience was a good reminder not to judge a book by it’s cover because that ticket scalper may just be an Olympic champion!