Can you afford to go to the London Olympics this summer?

Can you attend without paying a princely sum?

I spent the summer of 1996 glued to my living room TV set mimicking Dominique Moceanu’s floor routines at the summer Olympics. The U.S. Women’s gymnastics team went on to win the gold medal on their home turf in Atlanta, and I told my mom that someday I, too, would go to the Olympics. Like most 8-year-olds, I didn’t realize that I would grow into an adult with neither flexibility nor disposable income. If you’re in the same boat, the torch-bearing dream isn’t totally dead. There are tons of £0 (that’s zero dollars, American) events at the Summer Games in London — if you can afford to get there. But unless you’ve developed a sudden talent for competitive canoe slalom, it’s going to cost you.


As of 10pm last night, the best roundtrip airfares arriving in London in time to catch the opening ceremonies on July 27 are definitely not looking cheap, but this round-up might be worth the splurge. Ticket prices, of course, change all the time, so use these as a guide.

$908 Expedia Bargain Fare

Aer Lingus – $1036 (via Orbitz)

Delta – $1094 (via Kayak)

Iceland Air – $1119 (via Priceline)

Finnair – $1132 (via Kayak)

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – $1154 (via Orbitz)

American Airlines / British Airways – $1175 (via Best Travel Store International)


Us Yanks are required to apply for full-price tickets through CoSport, the United States’ Authorized (or authorised, if you will) Ticket Reseller. While the only tickets available at this stage are unwanted tickets other patrons didn’t want, we’re willing to bet those are simultaneously the events with the lowest price tag and best chance of starting a USA chant. Go sports!

Prices range from $109 for women’s handball preliminaries, $185 for gymnastics, $207 for men’s artistic gymnastics, $240 for women’s beach volleyball and $403 for the women’s indoor volleyball finals and medal ceremony.

Here’s the full list of events with available tickets: badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, artistic gymnastics, handball, hockey, judo, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball, weightlifting, freestyle wrestling.

You could always try your luck on the London Craigslist, where prices range from £200 (about $325 American) to £20,000 (roughly $485 million, American).

Can you volunteer to get in for free or something?

Yes. If you go back in time to October 2010 when applications closed. Who thinks that far ahead?


The Games of the XXX Olympiad (so the most hardcore Olympics, probably) feature four events that are free for spectators: road cycling, triathlon, marathon and race walking. In terms of scenery, cycling offers a backdrop of Buckingham Palace while you lounge along the Mall with a paperback and a pint, or drop by the Tate Britain between laps because museum admission won’t cost you a thing.

The triathlon circles Hyde Park, where you can also take a dip in the Serpentine Lido for £3.50 after 4pm or spend no money while celebrating free speech at the Speakers’ Corner on the north-east side of the park. The marathon and race walking courses give viewers and runners alike a chance to take in much of central London, and if nothing else, studying professional race walking techniques could guarantee that you never miss the G train again.

Full schedule of free events:

Road cycling
July 28: Mens Road Race (Estimated time 10:00-16:00 hrs GMT)
July 29: Women’s Road Race (Estimated time 12:00-16:00 hrs GMT)
Aug. 1: Men’s and Woman’s Individual Time Trial (Men 10:00-11:30, Women 13:00-1600 hrs GMT)

Aug. 4: Women’s Triathlon (Estimated time 09:00-11:30 hrs GMT)
Aug. 7: Men’s Triathlon (Estimated time 11:30-14:00 hrs GMT)

Aug. 5: Women’s Marathon (Estimated time 11:00-13:45 hrs GMT)
Aug. 12: Men’s Marathon (Estimated time 11:00-13:30 hrs GMT)

Race Walk
Aug. 4 Men’s 20km Race Walk (Estimated time 17:00-18:30 hrs GMT)
Aug. 11: Men’s 50km Race Walk (Estimated time 09:00-13:00 hrs GMT)
Aug. 11: Women’s 20km Race Walk (Estimated time 17:00-18:30 hrs GMT)

Of course, you can always sit in your Brooklyn apartment and watch it all online, live, for free.


London has lots of non-sports cultural stuff going on. Like gold medallist Jonathan Edwards and Olympic mascot Wenlock handing out at the National Portrait Gallery.

If you prefer to spend your XXX Olympiad experience indoors, 22 official live sites and several more yet unannounced community live sites will be screening the events for free in and outside of the city at parks, pubs and other public venues so you can cheer your face with the best of them. Band performances and sponsor products will also be up for grabs, and with sponsors like Coke and McDonald’s, you can probably manage to avoid paying for meals while still eating like a true American.

To accompany the athletics, the London 2012 festival, running June 21 – September 9, hosts literally millions (yes, actually millions) of free events spanning from theater and comedy to art and fashion to good old-fashioned carnivals. That’s right, multiple carnivals. Check out the BT River of Music weekend festival along the Thames, the citywide To Be or Not to Be Shakespearean theater festival, or the pyrotechnic Waterlitz performance art for starters.

Follow Kelly: @iamkellymurphy.

3 Comment

  • It’s also worth mentioning the INSANE cost of accommodation too. I’ve been told that for a one bedroom flat in East London, people are charging around £2500 ($4000) for the two weeks that the Olympics are on…!!

    Incidentally, if anyone’s still looking for a place, I know of a somewhere not rented out yet…

    • Thanks for the tip, ldn! If anyone’s interested, can they e-mail you?

      • Definitely! I have a one bedroom flat in Victoria Park (which is really near the Olympic site) and my friend who’s living in it was up for renting it out.

        So admittedly the incentive would have to be there for her to ship out for 2 weeks but we’re not extortionists so I thought it was worth putting out there!