It's still not too late to go to the London Olympics. Here are tips from a veteran fan.
George Reed-Dellinger watched his first Olympics on television in 1960 when he was 13. Sixteen years later he saw the Montreal Games live. “To be there in person, there’s nothing like it,” he said. “I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it.”
Now 65, he is preparing for his 12th trip to the Games in London this summer. His office in Washington, D.C., where he is an investment analyst, is filled with images of him flanked by various Olympic luminaries that he “collects” on his trips: Dorothy Hamill; Tommie Smith; Michael Phelps’ mother.
But it’s not all adrenaline and star-spotting. “These are ordeals, not vacations,” he said. “Be prepared for a lot of travel, a lot of lines and a lot of security.”
Here are excerpts from a conversation about the Olympics wisdom he has gleaned over the years.
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Q. So just how arduous can a day at the Games be?
A. To get to the Nordic combined events at the Vancouver Games (in 2010), we left at 4 a.m., took a cab down to the wharf, then took a water taxi across the sound, a two-hour bus to Whistler Mountain and walked no less than a mile to get in a line and wait for an event that lasted 45 minutes.
Q. Which events should people see in London?
A. Weightlifting. You go into this room and you see a clock ticking and it’s quiet — there are only a few thousand people — and out from behind a curtain comes the biggest person you’ve ever seen in your life. All of a sudden you hear this primal scream and more weight than your entire family goes above this person’s head. If he’s off by 1 inch, it will collapse. It’s electric.
Q. Are the tickets expensive?
A. Some, like weight lifting, are extraordinarily reasonable. Swimming, track and field, gymnastics, those are the “A” tickets, but there are plenty of reasonably priced, lesser events. There’s usually a premium on finals, but you can get preliminary tickets just to see a sport you’ve never seen before.
Q. Is it possible to get last-minute tickets to events?
A. You can try going through the agent that is assigned to your country. In the United States, it’s CoSport (www.cosport.com). Option 2 would be to get them through the United States Olympic Committee. You can become a donor and that might help you get tickets. Another way is to get them through authorized ticket agents — Top Centre is the one I’ve been using for years. And watch out for counterfeit ticket sellers. There were a ton in Beijing.
Q. How do you find housing?
A. Never stay at the hotels. They are booked by corporations at three times the going rate. I recommend finding someone who wants to get out of the city and is leasing their place. Or get a real estate agent to find you an apartment.
Q. How do you meet the athletes you “collect”?
A. I just go up to them and say “team picture!” Some are surprised because they don’t speak your language, but when they see the camera, it’s fine. If you’re lucky, you can get into the National House for your country where the athletes can relax and let their hair down. I donated to the United States Olympic Committee so that should get me in. Google “USOC concierge program.”
Q. Which games have been the most memorable for you?
A. Sydney — they put on a good Olympics. But probably my first, Montreal, stands out the most. Bruce Jenner was the world’s best athlete, and I kept bumping into Mick Jagger. I am already looking forward to Rio in 2016. They are constructing a building that is a 30-story glowing waterfall on an island.