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Yes, the Olympics are only two weeks away and, yes, most tickets were scooped up as soon as they became available and, yes, accommodations have been scarce or shockingly expensive.
But if you want to go to the XXI Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, you still can.
You just have to know what you want, where to find it and what you’re prepared to pay in terms of time, logistics and money.
As millions of would-be ticket buyers have already learned, most Olympic events sold out faster than an indie band with a major label deal. The difference is that in the Olympics, sold out doesn’t necessarily mean completely sold out and there are still ways to catch the action.
CoSport: The exclusive ticket vendor for U.S. citizens has just announced its last round of ticket sales (released from its stock of exorbitantly priced — and, hence, unsold — ticket/lodging packages). Tickets are primarily available for preliminary rounds; they’re priced 20 to 50 percent above face value, and they must be picked up at the company’s will-call office in Vancouver.
Fan-to-fan marketplace: Last month, the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) unveiled a first-of-its-kind ticket resale Web site, where ticket holders can sell tickets they don’t intend to use. You have to register to use the system, but once you do, you can purchase tickets (Visa only) for more than 150 athletic sessions and ceremonies.
Unfortunately, most sellers seem to be taking their cues from scalpers and other black-market vendors, with some tickets being offered for five to 10 times their face value. (Note, too, that VANOC is charging a 20 percent service fee — 10 percent each to buyers and sellers — on all transactions.) It may be worth checking the site frequently as prices may soften as the Games approach.
On-site ticket booths: If previous Olympics are any indication, tickets for non-marquee events are likely to become available during the Games. There will be ticket booths in both Vancouver and Whistler, and while you probably won’t snag seats for the gold-medal hockey round or pairs short program, you might get to see a training session or preliminary round for a reasonable price.
Hit the slopes: In Whistler, where 90 percent of the runs on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains will be open during the Games, mountain managers have made arrangements to open “viewing pods” at the top of each of the alpine events for visitors without event tickets. (Access to the pods is free, although a lift ticket is required.) You won’t hear the color commentary or see racers cross the finish line, but for the price of a lift ticket, it may be the next best thing.
Black-market tickets: Type “2010 Olympic tickets” into any search engine and you’ll find dozens of vendors offering tickets, along with thousands of listings on eBay and Craigslist. It should go without saying that none of them are guaranteed to be legitimate, so they’re strictly an at-your-own-risk affair.
When it comes to lodging for the Games, “there’s still room at the inn,” says Breton Murphy, spokesman for Tourism Whistler. Unfortunately, with many Whistler condos and Vancouver hotel rooms going for $400 per night and up, finding affordable accommodations may require Olympian reserves of stamina and perseverance. Here are a few places to look:
Destination 2010: The official destination planning site for the Games serves as a virtual clearinghouse for accommodations throughout the Vancouver-Whistler area. True, most hotels in downtown Vancouver and Whistler Village have been sold out for months, but there are spot rooms available, along with B&Bs, vacation rentals and even RV spots in a park overlooking English Bay.
However, with dozens of neighborhoods and more than 40,000 rooms among them, searching online can be a frustrating affair. To avoid the tedium of serial searching, pick up the phone — 877-826-1717 for Vancouver, 800-944-7853 for Whistler — and let a reservation agent do the digging.
Dockside lodging: Set to dock in North Vancouver on February 10, the Norwegian Star cruise ship recently lowered prices on two-night lodging packages. Book by January 29 and you can get an inside or outside cabin for US$429 per person per night, including fees, gratuities and taxes — a relative bargain when you consider the rate includes all meals, nightly entertainment and daily transfers to a nearby transit center.
Sleep well, do good: Like other “home-stay” sites, Home for the Games puts visitors in touch with local residents willing to rent a room, home or apartment. The twist? Hosts agree to donate 50 percent of the money received to charities for the homeless and abused youth. Currently, there are 176 properties listed with prices as low as a C$100 per night.
Finally, if you’re feeling adventurous, consider Vancouver’s El Dorado Hotel (604-434-1341), which is being converted into a hostel for the duration of the Games. Dorm-style rooms will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations accepted) for just C$35 per night. “It’s not for everyone,” says Emily Armstrong of Tourism Vancouver,” but for $40 a night, including breakfast, it’s a really affordable option.”
Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com. If you'd like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, drop him an e-mail.