At The Summer Games, A Hunt For Coveted Tickets

Hordes of people, hot and frustrated, crowd toward the Olympic ticket offices, hoping against hope they gain entry to their favorite events. Two Americans leaning against a nearby wall could show them how. They have bought a few tickets — not to their favorite events, but these two professional fans will go to pubs and other meeting places and trade their tickets (and maybe a little cash ) for the tickets they really want.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

For months now, we've been hearing about people having trouble with their tickets for the London Olympics. People complained they couldn't get the tickets they wanted or the tickets are too expensive. Plus, some have had problems actually getting the tickets in hand. But maybe they're just not doing it right, as NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: It's lunchtime, on a very hot day in London. Hundreds of people are lined up to collect Olympics tickets they've already ordered and paid for. This is the second day Simon Burley has come here. On the first, he was turned away because the line was too long. This time, Burley emerges triumphantly with his ticket and a story of the hell he went through, trying to get the agency to confirm that it was ready for collection.

SIMON BURLEY: It took me, 22 phone calls to get through to them day. Nobody picks up, and then it goes through to voicemail and then tells you that the voicemail is full, so you can't leave a message, and then the phone hangs up on you.

REEVES: Burley has a ticket to watch archery - not his first choice. You hear a lot of stories like that these days. Many have found getting their hands on tickets for the games, especially for the good stuff, hasn't been at all easy. Many - but not all. Not Carl Sams from Miami. Sams is leaning on a nearby wall, looking remarkably relaxed.

CARL SAMS: We'll go see whatever we want to go see. My dad told me years ago, if you have money, you can go see whatever you want to go see.

REEVES: Sams is what you'd call a serious sports fan. His baseball hat bears the insignia of the Miami Heat, but, he says, don't get the wrong idea.

SAMS: I'm a San Antonio Spurs fan because I grew up in the San Antonio, Texas area, but I root for the Heat because I live in Miami now. But I am a Dallas Cowboy fan and a San Antonio Spurs fan. I want that on the record.

REEVES: Sams has come to London with his frat brother from college years, Benji Sweet from Ohio. Sams works in pharmaceutical sales. He intends to trade tickets until they get into the games they really want to see. They've come to London alone.

Did you bring your families here or are you...

SAMS: Of course not.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMS: Why would we do something stupid like that?

(LAUGHTER)

REEVES: The two men are confident they will get to see the good stuff, once the ticket market has settled down.

SAMS: Well, now we're just waiting for the tickets to actually show up. Once everybody gets here and it starts to melt itself out - I mean, it's just like the Super Bowl in the States. We go to Super Bowls. We go to NBA finals. We went to the Masters. And, of course, they say the Masters is a tougher ticket than the Olympics. Well, we've been to three Masters.

REEVES: Sams and Sweet already have a few tickets for the Olympics - back in their hotel safe.

SAMS: Two of them we're definitely going to trade. And the other two we'll go. We do have some basketball.

REEVES: And how many extra are you looking for?

SAMS: It's whatever when we wake up in the morning, what we want to go do.

REEVES: There is one race they'd particularly like to witness. They want to be there in person to see Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt win gold. But only if the price is right.

If I had a ticket for the 100 meters final in my top pocket right here, how much would you give me for it?

SAMS: Two hundred pounds, right now.

REEVES: I don't think that's going to be enough.

SAMS: Well, then I guess we go to something else.

REEVES: Is that your limit, though, two hundred pounds?

SAMS: I don't know what my limit is. I'm just saying, well, you said today what is it worth. Well, today, I'll pay two hundred pounds. Who knows that morning when we wake up.

BENJI SWEET: It's just kind of like this. You have to have a - sports is a feel, and it's a spirit. And when you get a feeling, it's, OK, I want to do this. Let's just really do this. I mean, this is what I want to do.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, London.

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