Monthly Archives: May 2012

Rock Royalty

Even in a normal year, this would be a busy time for the Queen: the State Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, Garter Day and Royal Ascot fill her diary every May and June.  But this year (and you’d have to be living in a cave not to know this already) is far from normal.  It is Diamond Jubilee year, and in the weeks leading up to the Jubilee celebrations at the start of June,  the Queen has been travelling around the country.  By the end of the summer only the Olympic Torch will have reached more corners of the British Isles than she has.

With such a demanding schedule it’s important to get enough rest.  So I hope she isn’t being woken up these mornings by the workmen right outside her bedroom window.  And when she opens the curtains to see where the noise is coming from, this is what she sees:

It’s a 20,000-seat stadium erected for the Diamond Jubilee Concert on the 4th June.  Free tickets have been allocated by ballot and the performers cover several generations, from tweeny X-factor finalists  JLS to alleged Prince Philip favourite, veteran Welsh chanteuse Shirley Bassey.  Four singing knights will revisit the Palace: Sirs Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney and Elton John.

But in her 60 years on the throne, Her Majesty has seen most things, including concerts in her front garden.   It will take something spectacular to beat the highlight of the Golden Jubilee Concert ten years ago: Brian May of Queen, with his Restoration courtier’s hairstyle, standing on the roof of Buckingham Palace playing the national anthem on his Red Special.

See a full list of performers here.  They represent an enormous range of ages and styles and it’s fun to speculate which member of the Royal Family requested which act.  And why…

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Congratulations.  You have cleared 600 acres of industrial wasteland, cleansed 2  million tons of poisoned earth, buried thousands of overhead cables, revived miles of waterways and planted thousands of trees, plants and lawns.  You have built eight world class sports arenas, accommodation for 17,000 athletes and high-tech facilities for 22,000 journalists.  Further afield, you have prepared another 12 venues for 18 sports from shooting to showjumping.

That was the easy part.  Now for the real work: ticket sales.  Though it’s not the sales that are the problem; it’s ensuring a “fair allocation”.  The numbers are bewildering:

Gold Dust16 days, 26 sports, plus the opening and closing ceremonies translate into 8.8 million tickets.  1.1 million go to sponsors, another 1.1 million go for sale overseas.  That leaves 6.6 million for sale to the British public.  Fair enough – after all, it’s them who have paid for all that stuff in the first paragraph.  And to further ensure fairness, all ticket applications are put into a gigantic first-round ballot.

Round One (April 2011): 1.9 million applications, 1 million of which got zero tickets.

Round Two (July 2011): This 1 million get to apply again.  Most get some tickets this time, though there are glitches.  10,000 synchronised swimming tickets were issued which turned out not to exist.  Disappointed applicants were offered tickets to alternative events.

The 20,000 who emerged from both rounds with no tickets whatsoever are being offered a third chance in the “lucky loser” ballot starting this Friday.  After this there will be a free-for-all for the remaining scraps.

The body responsible for baffling and opaque process, LOCOG (the London Organising Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games), has been further embarrassed by its flaky ticketing website, its clumsy attempt (now abandoned) to charge for babies being brought to events, and the enormous number of unsold football tickets it is belatedly trying to unload.  No wonder the normally sure-footed LOCOG Chair, Lord Coe, looks shifty whenever the subject of tickets is raised.

Let’s hope this is just a bump in the road which will be forgotten once the games start.

Finally, let’s spare a thought, not for the “lucky losers”, but the “unlucky winners”.  Those who did get something in the first ballot (though far less than they applied for), and who were therefore excluded from the second and subsequent rounds.  Even if all they got was football tickets, which don’t even get you on to the Olympic Park, and which are ten a penny now anyway.  Like me.

Anyone fancy North Korea v. Gabon at Wembley?  There’ll be plenty of room!