London Olympic visitors take gold-medal hit in wallet
| London: Day 1 in Olympic Park and already visitors were feeling it in their wallets.
"Twenty-five pounds for a T-shirt?" exclaimed Catherine Goley of Birmingham, who was browsing through a London 2012 souvenir shop near Olympic Stadium on Saturday -- and made a hasty exit after finding nothing in her price range.
The one-eyed Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville were going for 15 pounds (USD 23) a pop, while the hometown "Team GB" backpacks ran 37 pounds (USD 57). Team GB tablet sleeves were a relative steal at 12 (USD 18) pounds apiece.
"The stuff they were selling in the supermarkets was much cheaper," she said.
Goley had tickets for last night`s swim finals but others without tickets came to the park just to check it out on the first day of competition after the opening ceremony, paying 10 pounds (USD 15) to get in and another 15 pounds (USD 22) to go up the Orbit observation deck.
Colleen Whalen, of Cincinnati, Ohio, said she would have paid to go up since that`s the only way to see inside the main stadium and the Olympic flame, but tickets were sold out.
Whalen, who won a ticket to the swim finals, said she briefly considered buying a ticket for the opening ceremony, but balked at the price for a last-minute seat.
"The only tickets left were 1,800 or 2,300 pounds and, yes, that`s definitely out of my price range." (In dollars, that`s USD 2,800 to USD 3,570).
Food wasn`t any bargain, either -- expensive even for a city long considered one of the world`s costliest.
A healthy portion of the British mainstay fish and chips set John Porter back 8 pounds, 50 pence -- and that was just for his 8-year-old niece Freya.
Normally it costs about half as much. Porter, who lives in a London suburb, had a roast beef sandwich, and wasn`t terribly impressed.
"At 8 pounds, I`ll be honest. I won`t have it again."
Stadium prices are always higher than what you can get outside the venue, and London is no exception.
Tickets for events started at 20 pounds (USD 31) and went up from there.
As a result, Whalen, the Ohio bank manager, said she didn`t blink at the 26-pound Olympic logo polo shirt she bought her husband.
"I didn`t think it was too bad for an event as high-profile as this," she said. "You have to expect prices will be a bit higher."
But at least she bought something. On Saturday, several athletes were seen window shopping at the Westfield Mall on the edge of Olympic Park, but many returned home empty-handed.
"I am just here to look," Marouane M`rabet, a Tunisian volleyballer, explained apologetically to a sales clerk who had spent the last five minutes rubbing a sample bottle of massage oil onto his forearm, even offering a discount if he bought more than one.
After he and a teammate walked off, the woman explained the problem.
"They aren`t allowed to bring any liquids into the athletes village," she said, a reference to tight security at the closed-off complex where the Olympians are housed. "So they never buy anything."
First Published: Sunday, July 29, 2012, 09:11
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