To be there or not to be there?

That is the question… at least when contemplating attending a large-scale sporting event. Many of us may even have recently pondered this matter in relation to the London Olympics. Can I be bothered dealing with the crowds? Or is it better to stay home? I’ve got a much better chance of seeing everything if I watch it on TV!

Sometimes the choice is clear. Free tickets, for example, are a no-brainer. Add corporate hospitality and anyone saying no to the deal should be put in a nice white jacket that somewhat limits arm movement and placed in a pretty padded room. But freebies are unfortunately few and far between for most of us and, in these days of ever-increasing ticket prices, the question often must be asked. “Is the expense justified?”

As the Olympics draw to a close there are some of us who have been and some who haven’t. And for many of us who haven’t, the primary reason may have been that of price.

Living in Paris, I am a little out of the loop on London happenings, so I didn’t realise that the ticket ballot had taken place until I saw the excited postings of my friends on Facebook declaring the events they were attending. Ah well, you snooze, you lose. But I have been keeping an eye on available tickets during the games, knowing that London is but a mere train ride away…

At a first glance the tickets popping up have seemed within the bounds of “reasonable”. Category E tickets to the Closing Ceremony at £20. Where do I sign up? Unfortunately nowhere. Despite the promising start, the only tickets available were actually a little more expensive. At £995. Hmmm. Do the words “highway robbery” spring to mind?

There are two main reasons for attending a major sporting event. The first is the atmosphere. There is nothing quite like the energy of a crowd being entertained. Human electricity at its best. And if the home team wins, all the better. The highs. The lows. The suspense. The crowd hangs on every second, knowing they are involved in a special occasion that is destined to last for a limited time only. They are THERE. And so are their heroes. Playing out a special moment in front of their very eyes.

Which brings me to the second reason for getting along to the big match. The reason most of us will rarely admit… “I was there” syndrome. Each time we buy tickets for a big game, we hope against hope that the guys or gals out on the field will produce an EPIC game. Obviously this hope is justified because a close game heightens the atmosphere and enhances the spectacle. But it also sounds more impressive when we say we were there.

“I was at the 2012 London Olympics”. Actually, I wasn’t. But if I had forked out an extortionate amount of my hard-earned cash to go, chances are this motivation was a large part of the reason I had done so. And possibly even for a sport in which I have no interest. The Olympic organisers have us all figured out. And have priced tickets accordingly.

I am not denigrating anyone who has attended London 2012, not in the slightest. “I was at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and it was an amazing experience.” True story. The funny twist to it is that my most memorable moment wasn’t of the tennis event I paid to attend, but of sitting on a massive lawn in front of an enormous television screen in the Olympic complex with thousands of other Aussie fans watching Grant Hackett and Kieren Perkins take out 1, 2 in the 1500m swim. An arm-hair raising, goose-bump producing magical moment for which I did not pay a cent.

Am I advocating not going to sporting events? Not at all. If it’s in your price range, I’m all for it… being present at a truly great sporting event is one of my favourite experiences. But if you can’t afford it, don’t despair. Get a bunch of mates together and create your own atmosphere. Or head down to the local pub. Or if it’s a really big event, get along to your nearest big screen with a ready-made crowd. If it’s a truly special sporting moment, you will enjoy it no matter what. And you’ll always be able to say to your mates “Remember when we were at xxx watching the London Olympics together and xxx put in that amazing performance?”

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