Do not expect empty seats when the Commonwealth Games arrive in Glasgow next year. In scenes reminiscent of the buildup to London 2012, such was the demand for tickets when they went on sale for the first time on Monday morning that the event’s official website ground to a halt.
For organisers of last year’s Olympics it must have stirred unpleasant memories of the ticket fiasco that blighted the runup to the London Games, when the online provider Ticketmaster struggled to cope with the volume of requests from the start of the process. However, more pertinently, it was a reminder that the appetite for sport in Britain remains remarkably high.
One million tickets are available for the Commonwealth Games, which begin on 23 July 2014 and last for 11 days, with Usain Bolt, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Mo Farah et al potentially all competing inside Hampden Park football stadium, which will stage track and field events.
Once known as the British Empire Games, it is the first time the event will have been staged in Scotland since Edinburgh played host in 1986 and is regarded by organisers as a major opportunity to build on the legacy of the Olympics and encourage more young people to be inspired by feats of sporting bravura.
The Glasgow 2014 deputy chief executive, Ty Speer, said: “People have been very excited and have put in lots of applications. I think the British public got a great taste last summer of world-class sport, with a real celebratory atmosphere, and the Commonwealth Games is going to be the next multi-sport event in the country for the foreseeable future.
“People are extending that fun and want to be part of it – it’s fantastic for us and the athletes who are going to be competing in it. There will be big crowds and the city will have a great atmosphere.
“The Glasgow 2014 main website went down for about two minutes, but once the ticketing site went up at 10am we haven’t had any major problems, just queues, but that’s the kind of volume that we need to manage.”
Thousands of people submitted their ticket applications on Monday and organisers say that demand remains “very high”. The Olympic silver medallist swimmer Michael Jamieson marked the beginning of sales by diving into a refurbished pool at Tollcross international swimming centre, a key location for the Glasgow Games, while the former track cyclist and six-time gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy also encouraged spectators to snap up tickets.
However, the rush of applications may have been unnecessary – there remain four weeks to buy tickets and they will not be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
A Glasgow 2014 spokesman said: “We are processing applications as quickly as possible and appreciate people’s patience during this time. It makes no difference whether you apply on the first day, the last or any day in between, as long as your application is completed by 6pm on 16 September.”
On the back of the hugely successful athletics Anniversary Games, held last month at the Olympic Stadium, yesterday’s sales will have been a welcome boost for Glasgow organisers. Tickets for the first two days of the Anniversary Games sold out in just 75 minutes in April, while Bolt’s re-emergence in Stratford, entering the arena on a makeshift rocket, evoked memories of last summer, when the nation was gripped by Olympic fervour.
Glasgow 2014 organisers believe that low ticket prices will encourage people of all ages to watch 4,500 athletes compete across 14 venues in 17 different sports.
Each sport has a minimum entry price of £15, while 60% of the tickets are priced at £25 or less, with concessions for under-16s and over-60s just £7.50.
At last year’s Olympics a number of seats allocated to VIPs and the “Olympic family” were left unoccupied. Crucially, however, for the Commonwealth Games 70% of tickets will be made available to the public instead of dignitaries.
“We’ve always tried to keep our pricing very accessible and affordable for people and we want to give the athletes full stadiums. We’d rather have a full house than squeeze every last pound out of the ticket sales,” said Speer.
“I think we are benefiting from a UK public in particular that had a taste of big events last summer, they saw a number of their heroes in different competitions and have looked at us and thought ‘hang on they’re going to be back in Glasgow’. It’s terrific for us.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing. These are events that don’t come more than once in a generation. Glasgow and Scotland have made an amazing commitment in hosting the event and we’re on the road to getting it right.”