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Travel & Holiday

In pursuit of sports

Despite high hotel rates and ticket prices, some sports fans are heading to Europe for Euro 2012 football and the Olympic Games
The Straits Times - January 31, 2012
By: Nicholas Yong
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In pursuit of sports Daria Kondakova of Russia performing with the hoop during the final of the Rhythmic Gymnastics London 2012 Olympic qualifier in London. -- PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Two major events - soccer's European Championships and the Olympics - will light up this year's sporting calendar but you will have to jump to it if you want to score tickets.

And you will also need to dig deep - into your pockets - to cover hotel costs that are pole-vaulting ever higher.

Come June 8, Euro 2012 will have football fans cheering for their favourite teams when the competition kicks off in Poland and Ukraine. Teams representing 16 nations, including Spain, Italy and England, will vie for the right to contest the final on July 1 and be proclaimed European champions.

Then, barely three weeks after all that sweaty excitement, athletes from 204 countries converge on London for the Summer Olympic Games from July 27 to Aug 12.

But sports-lovers of either event face several obstacles to seeing their idols up close and personal.

While 1.4 million tickets for Euro 2012 were made available to the public, European football's governing body Uefa received more than 12 million applications for the first batch of tickets that went on sale in March last year.

As for the Olympics, the official agent for Singapore does not have any tickets-only purchases left, only package ones.

Another hurdle is hotel rates. Those in Euro 12's host cities, for example, are expected to go up by at least 30 to 50 per cent during the period of the championships.

Because of the high cost, travel agencies here such as Chan Brothers and ASA Holidays will not be offering package tours to the football event or the Olympics.

But Singapore sports fans are not defeated by all this, with some determined to make it to the games, come what may (see other stories).

One Singaporean sports-lover who is ahead of the pack is post-graduate student Lionel Tann, 25. Mr Tann, who is based in Melbourne, has wrapped up his plans to head to the English capital with two Australian friends.

'I competed in track events during my school days and dreamt of competing in the Olympics. But since I will never get to do that, going as a spectator is the next best thing,' says Mr Tann, who will be bunking with friends in London who helped him buy the tickets.

Tickets to Olympics events such as soccer, badminton and athletics set the trio back by a total of A$1,855 (S$2,480), while Mr Tann is also budgeting A$15,000 for the month-long trip, which will include a visit to France for some shopping.

As it turns out, he has a six-week break in July and has always wanted to visit London. The depreciation of the sterling pound has also helped. It is now trading at A$1.48.

He notes: 'Everything just came at the right time but yes, it has been a lifelong dream to go to the Olympics.'

Those who have not yet got tickets need not give up just yet. You can still get tickets from the designated reseller for Singapore, the Kingdom Sports Group (www.kingdomsg.com/home/), in packages that include accommodation. These start from £545 (S$1,075) a person for two nights' stay and tickets to selected events.

Do note, if you are a non-resident of Britain or a designated European country, you can obtain tickets only from an authorised ticket reseller, in this case the Kingdom Sports Group.

While Chan Brothers and ASA Holidays will not be offering package tours, CTC Travel does plan to offer Olympics packages, but only to corporate customers. CTC spokesman Alicia Seah notes: 'When mega events such as the World Cup are staged, leisure travellers to the host cities will decline by up to 50 per cent, given that hotel accommodation will be very expensive and traffic can come to a standstill in city areas.'

As for tickets to the soccer games, they are still available in limited quantities through the Uefa ticket resale platform (https://ticketing.uefa.com/euro2012-en/default.aspx) and websites such as LiveFootballTickets.com and ViaGoGo.com.

IT consultant Ian Hall, 30, took an early-bird approach. The Singapore permanent resident has been planning a trip to the Olympics since March last year, when tickets first went on sale.

Having obtained tickets to events such as women's table tennis - 'because Singapore does well in it' - athletics and volleyball, he will be heading to London with his mother, sister and Singaporean wife, all big sports fans.

The Halls are getting around the problem of exorbitant accommodation by staying with friends in London.

'We just have to pay for the flights and the tickets. We would have to pay like 10 times more if we were to stay in a hotel,' says Mr Hall.

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