London 2012 Olympics tickets - online buying guide

The London 2012 Olympics tickets are officially on sale and the overwhelming majority of the business is going to be done online. As such, we’ve put together a brief guide on how to sail through the whole process and make sure you don’t get stiffed on the way.

Before you get too excited, you need to know if you’re actually eligible to apply. First of all, you need to be over 16. You can still go to the Games if you’re not but you’ll need to get someone who is of age to apply on your behalf. Beyond that, any resident of the UK, the UK’s overseas colonies and anyone from the vast majority of Europe can apply using the London 2012 website. If you’re on another continent, then you’ll need to contact your National Olympic Committee instead.

So, if you’re over 16 and from the UK or Europe, then here’s what you need.

Sign Up

First you have to create an account and register with the London 2012 ticketing website. It's relatively brief and painless. No blood groups or residences from the last three years required.

Choose your events

There are 32 sports to choose from using the Olympic Games search tool, including the opening and closing ceremonies, and within those categories you can drill down to find women's javelin, the 120kg men's Greco-Roman wrestling finals or whatever it is you're looking for.

If you're trying to get a picture of the whole thing in one go to see if you can make a day out or short break of it, then download the entire London Olympic Games timetable PDF instead.

For each session within each event, there's a large range of ticket prices to choose running from £20 all the way up to so much cash that you could have yourself a nice holiday in Barbados instead. Pick what level of seat you're willing to pay for each one and look out for the events with little blue flags next to them. They indicate that special prices are available for senior citizens and under 16, the latter of whom will be able to pay the same number of pounds as they have years of age for their tickets. Fortunately, the same idea wasn't put forward for the OAPs.

You have until 11.59pm on 26 April 2011 to make your choices but you can save your progress and come back to it at any time before that.

Naturally, it's going to be oversubscribed, so it will go down to a completely unbiased ballot in such circumstances and you'll find out how you did some time between 10 May - 10 June 2011 when payment for your successful applications will be taken.

Money

Slightly scandalously, the only payment method accepted is Visa seeing as it's Visa who sponsors the Games. Fortunately, you can use a camera inside not made by either Panasonic, Samsung and GE and indeed eat something other than McDonalds on your day out as well.

Tickets

The tickets are officially speaking non-transferable but London 2012 ticketing will be setting up a site whereby you can put ones that you no longer need up for sale at face value. There's been nothing explicit about reselling from eBay, Gumtree or any other of the usual online second hand markets but one might suspect - certainly from the former - a ban on Olympic ticket sales. According to London 2012, it is illegal to sell Olympic Games tickets on the black market.

That said, it seems that you can buy tickets as a lead booker and then give them out to friends and family. The suggestion is that the lead booker needs to be there on entrance, meaning that they can't be bought and sold openly, but there's nothing explicit here and it wouldn't be a big surprise to find that actually you can bend the rules. So, as a result, don't be shocked if you do see tickets on sale in all sorts of weird and wonderful places. They won't be at face value and they won't all be genuine either.

Stay safe online

If you do find yourself in a position of looking to buy a ticket to one of the 2012 sessions through a third party website, you can check that it's kosher on a special page. Head back to Ticketing Website Checker on the official London 2012 website. If it doesn't pass the acid test then leave it well alone.

The other danger is the scams or, more specifically, the spams. The London 2012 Olympic Games is going is to be the mother of all covers for thousands upon thousands of attempted cyber crime attacks. At the one end, there's simply people setting up bogus sites to take payments from those who think they're buying tickets but there'll also be plenty of trojans, key stroke loggers, rootkits and worms uploaded to anyone who clicks on links in spam e-mails that are clearly fraudulent as well.

There's a list on the London 2012 website of ones already doing the rounds and it's seriously long already. In fact, it's so long that it's not even worth checking. The best advice we can give is not to open unsolicited mails about the Olympics at all. Just don't bother. You're not going to win free tickets unless you remember entering the competition in the first place and if any offers look too good to be true, it's because they are.

Finally

All tickets remaining after this first round is over will go on sale from June/July 2011 and, if you really don't fancy applying online, you can do it in the post with a paper application form that you can get from local branches of Lloyds TSB and Bank of Scotland. Applications must, again, be received by 26 April but instead of Visa having the monopoly here, you can pay by cheque or postal order. 

Which events are you up for watching and which ones do you think need to be included come 2016? Let us know in the comments.