The Olympics: More Proof Those Given Everything Appreciate Nothing

Am I the only person in America with a working television that hasn’t watched a single minute of the Olympics on the boob tube?

It’s not that I’m not interested in them; I am. It’s just that I’ve been really busy doing research and getting ready for a speaking engagement I have at next month’s Financial Blogger Conference.

That’s right; I’m taking this speaking gig seriously folks. After all, you didn’t really expect me to get dressed up, travel all the way to Denver, and then make a complete ass of myself in front of millions thousands hundreds scores of people, did you? Especially when it’s much easier to do that here on a daily basis from the comfort of my own home. But I digress.

Strange Games

Personally, I don’t think the Summer Olympics are as interesting as the winter ones. As long as the Winter Olympics have ski jumping, curling and the biathlon — an odd combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting — the Summer Games will always pale in comparison.

It wasn’t always that way. Believe it or not, the Summer Olympics used to have some really odd competitions too, including tug-of-war, poodle clipping, delivery van driving, firefighting, and club swinging. I’m not kidding.

Here’s something else that appears a bit odd on its face: row after row of empty seats at numerous events being held as part of the 2012 London Olympics. Even I know about this because the media has been absolutely relentless in its coverage of this story.

There’s no doubt all those empty seats are a tremendous embarrassment to the organizers of the 2012 London Olympics — especially since most of the seats are in the choicest locations. Even worse, the majority of those empty seats are in areas reserved for “Olympic family” groups that include officials, national sports federations, sponsors, athletes, and journalists.

And from what I can tell, the great majority of those tickets are given away as the group members see fit.

Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder

A couple months ago I wrote how I paid $2462.35 for two tickets to Game 4 of the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals. Needless to say, that was, by far, the biggest impulse purchase of my entire life — so there was nothing that was going to keep me from being at that game.

In fact, I was so determined not to miss the game I made sure the Honeybee and I were at the Staples Center almost four hours before they dropped the puck — just in case we had car trouble along the way.

As for medical emergencies, the only thing that could have kept me from going to that game was an acute myocardial infarction.

Okay, or maybe a severe stroke. Anything else, however, would have been considered just a minor inconvenience.

You can bet the reason why there have been so many empty seats up to now at the 2012 London Olympics is because most of those absent ticket holders weren’t personally invested like I was with my Stanley Cup tickets; they simply didn’t have any skin in the game.

I see the same indifference in my kids when they walk out of their bedrooms without turning the lights off; they aren’t paying for the electricity, so why should they care?

I also see it at fast food restaurants where I often catch myself grabbing many more napkins and/or ketchup packets than I really need.

The bottom line is that it’s hard to truly appreciate products, services, and commodities when they’re given to you for free; that’s human nature.

That’s also why I can guarantee you that those half-barren Olympic stadiums would be boasting standing room only crowds if every ticket holder had, at the very least, paid face value for their seats.

Photo Credit: 8th Day


    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      We’ll see, Sam! It can’t be any worse than the stuff I do here — so the bar is set pretty low.

      Looking forward to seeing you too!

  1. 3


    Very true, I am always now scanning the seats when they show anything on TV. Just not very impressed with the people there. Haven’t seen a packed house once.

    • 5

      Len Penzo says

      Me too, Roger. It’s a shame so many events aren’t be watched even though the demand for tickets is clearly there.

  2. 6


    You aren’t going to stink? What the hell am I going to do with these tomatoes?

    I found that as a fee-based advisor. As my fees rose, so did my clients’ commitment to implement my advice. I also found it as a college student: when I started footing the bill my junior year my grades went from mid-B range to all A’s. I’ve never had a B since I started paying my own way. Coincidence?

    • 9

      Len Penzo says

      I think the solution is simple: If you aren’t through the turnstiles 15 minutes after the start of the event, then they can resell the seats. With electronic tickets, that is logistically feasible today.

  3. 12


    Len, I am joining you on this side of the ocean in not watching any of the Olympics – every time I pass a TV somewhere, though, there seems to be swimming. How boring can one get – probably the only more boring thing is watching snooker.

    Sorry I’ll miss your epic presentation – any chance of technology remedying this?

    • 13

      Len Penzo says

      From what I remember from the last Summer Games, synchronized diving is pretty boring too. Every dive seems the same and I really have trouble figuring out how the judges even come up with the scores.

      Let me think about post-conference distribution of the presentation. Thank you for asking, Maria. For the record, it’s geared toward bloggers, so it won’t be of much interest to most people. Actually, I bet it will eventually be available on the FINCON website, if you’re interested.

  4. 15


    Interesting that TV shows will give away tickets to always show full audiences, yet sports venues haven’t learned the same tactic. Many years ago (30+), I was given free tickets to a Kings game. I did attend, but never went back. I must admit, I watched the playoffs although I had difficulty following it.

    • 16

      Len Penzo says

      I think they don’t give away tickets because if they did, then they would be forced to drop their prices.

      Even scalpers won’t give away tickets. They’ll destroy them before giving them away — or even sell them at discounted prices.

  5. 17


    The only contact I have had with the Olympics are the blurbs about the swimming or women’s gymnastics competetions. I need to save my energy for football season!

    • 18

      Len Penzo says

      Football season is almost here. Of course, living in Los Angeles — I no longer have a team to root for. It broke my heart when the Rams left town.

      I used to be a big football fan, but now … not so much.

  6. 21

    Spedie says

    I think the cost of a plane ticket, car rental/taxi, hotel to stay at and general cost other than the tickets to the venues are keeping many unemployed, underemployed, or financially struggling people away from seeing the games in person even though they may receive a free ticket.

    It might be a reflection of the world economy as a whole.

    But, that’s just my two cents.

    • 22

      Len Penzo says

      You could be right, Spedie. The world economy is not doing as well as it was during the last several Summer Olympics.

      I suspect the mania for putting on the games will be dying down now. People forget that until the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 showed that money could be made from the games (and LOTS of it) — there weren’t a lot of takers to host the Olympics because they were usually a losing financial proposition.

      • 23

        Spedie says

        However, I think that if a person had the opportunity to get a free ticket, it is not nice of them to take it and then not attend when the ticket could have been sold to someone else.

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