Where am I going to sleep?
This is a logical question in your preparations for the Olympic Games.
We deal with this differently. You have the security seekers who start finding a place to sleep before going hunting for tickets. Or they simply choose an (extremely) expensive all-inclusive package. The diehard adventurers, on the other hand, will find this terrible and will look for something on the spot in July 2020. Now, I think almost all the Olympiads traveling to Tokyo2020 have adventurer blood. But the most extreme tension seekers can come get a cold shower. The Olympic Games is not comparable to a trip to, say, Peru, out of season.
In this blog I will tell about my own Olympic overnight experiences and conclude with some advice. With the aim as always to give you inspiration, hope and practical tips!
Athene’04 - view on the Holland Heineken House
It was sometime in the fall of 2003 that I decided, together with friends, to pursue my dream and visit the Olympic Games. We started with the tickets, which at the time was simple. We booked a place to sleep somewhere in the spring of 2004, just a few months before the opening ceremony.
Booking.com did not exist yet, but of course the internet did. Through many searches and sending out emails with requests I found a hotel room relatively easy. Well, a hotel? It was a youth hostel. But we could book a private room (for 4) with air conditioning. Price? 62.50 euros pnpp. Not bad, not even for 2004😉
Remember this; the location is important especially if you are on a tight Olympic Planning. In Athens this was perfect; in the middle of the centre and, but we did not know that then, within walking, eh crawling distance of the Holland Heineken House!
So close to the HHH that we could hear the Dutch singer Marco Borsato in the shower and toilet!
Key of the success? Internet browsing and pure beginner’s luck.
Torino '06 - In the countryside
Torino was a last-minute decision for us. An Olympic weekend was possible. Done so to speak. Only one thing; last minute can work but not in a small town like Torino. And so, we were forced to explore the Italian countryside via a B&B 40 km (!) from Torino (no walks to the centre this time).
In the last night I drove home directly from Torino to get ‘snow’stuck on the highway. Luckily, we still found a hotel where we checked in at 3:30 am.
Key of the “success”? No matter what: there is ALWAYS a solution!
Beijing’08 - 100% China
One of our best Olympic places we stayed was in Beijing, in apartment complex: 潮阳 区 ， 亚运村 ， 慧忠 里 B 区 Who does not know it?
Well, this was a unique experience. We stayed in a 100% Chinese apartment site, complete with entrance control. Well before the Airbnb era, we rented this apartment from the Chinese owner who went on holiday during the Games. This of course was not organised directly with the owner but via Cycle China, a Portuguese company that organized bike tours (and still does). They helped us with mediation and payments and so we came to this place to sleep.
Cost? About 80 euros pppn, but for an entire apartment, for just the two of us. We both had our own bedroom, what a luxury.
It was special to be celebrated as Olympic stars every morning as we walked around the site. It was also special that we could go to the Olympic stadium on our (Chinese) bicycles (5 minutes!). And in the evening, we did a game of juggling a feather, together with Chinese grandmothers. They busted out in a roar of laughter when we dropped the feather again. European losers.
Key of the success? Search off the beaten track. Find people and companies who have experience with organizing local trips. And of course, Airbnb who is also now an official sponsor of the Games in Tokyo. Oh, and do not forget: Luck!
London’12 - Airbnb avant la lettre
Just like in Beijing, we also managed to rent a house in London. Via a sort of Airbnb ‘Avant la lettre’ we ended up in a suburb in East London. Perfect in terms of location because many events took place within a short travel distance. An English professor rented out his house, with again a room for my Olympic friend and myself. Only a 5-minute walk from the Metro which brought us directly to the Judo hall. All in all, a more expensive place to sleep but still within limits; 110 euros pppn.
Key of the success? Choose your location strategically depending on your events. And again, a lot of browsing online. Writing to many people and organizations (sometimes people drop out suddenly and make you the lucky alternative). And oh yes. Luck.
Sochi’14 - Just Cruisin’
Just as you thought we had seen all possibilities with Beijing and London, Sochi came in. A small town and as we saw in Torino, that often gives more difficulty in finding a place to sleep. But here we could not accuse the Russians for a lack of creativity. What did they do for Sochi’14? They docked several cruise ships off the coast of Sochi and the Olympic park a little further away. And so, we booked a sunny Cruise Ship for 5 nights to the Winter Games.
It was not really a sea cruise because we did not leave the safe Olympic harbour, but every morning we had breakfast with a view of palm trees and the sea. By far the most idiotic Olympic situation, especially because it was almost 20 degrees Celsius (Winter Games!) And we had forgotten our sun cream. Hotels in Sochi were an hour’s drive from the events, but we were able to walk to the Olympic park.
And what did this (not) sailing 4-star Louis Olympia (!) Cruise Liner cost? Well 60 euros pppn thanks to a devaluation of the RUBLE of almost 15% in the months prior to our booking.
Key of the success? The WWW. Always. And again, location knowledge. And a good dose of that delicious stuff; luck.
Rio’16 - The BooKING.com Xperience
Sochi had set the scene; from now on we would like to experience every Olympic Games in sunny places close to the beach. That was of course also our goal in Rio de Janeiro with 10 km of beach (in the city!).
But the times were different, the hotel booking organizations also realized that a lot better that they could make money during the Olympic Games. And so, hotel prices got higher during the Games. Substantially higher. Up to 5 times the normal price. But here too the stock market principle always comes to play. Too high prices and too long a wait can also mean more vacancy. And then the prices go down again. Timing is everything!
But the timing of Rio was a very special one. Thanks to an IT solution from an Olympic Wizkid (of whom I still don’t know how he did it) we were able to book the full 16 days at Booking.com 14 months in advance. This was not possible at all, since Booking hotels only then released about 12 months in advance. So, we could not book. But we did that thanks to this IT side path.
And so, on 19 June 2015 I booked a studio 200 meters from Copacabana beach. With “normal” prices; converted 80 euros per night for a studio including kitchen and 2 bedrooms! Booking.com confirmed my reservation.
BINGO. I thought. But never cheer too early, not even as an Olympic supporter. In October I received an email from the owner.
I had expected something like that, but with my confirmation from Booking.com I was able to counter that. She was stuck with me. Yet to my surprise Booking.com ruled in favour of the owner by stating that I could have known that these prices were not in line with the market. There was some truth in that, but I did not expect Booking to fully agree with the owner.
Then the “Poldernederlander” (Dutch are famous for their capacity to find the middle of the road in conflicts) came to mind and I started a conversation with both Booking and the owner. As a result, I could not stay 16 but 12 nights for the agreed price. Wow. That meant that I could only stay for 55-euro pppn with (almost) a view on the Copacabana.
Key of the success? Find an IT whiz kid (Booking has put a stop to this now), push through and negotiate. Always stay friendly. And of course, here too; luck!!
Finding an Olympic place to sleep as an adventurer does not start when you get off the plane. It is a matter of hard work (unless you just ordered an expensive package); searching hard as well as on the beaten track as well as off the non-beaten track. A new dimension has now been added via social media. For example, Twitter has become a special medium for finding like-minded people; people who also search but also locals who know the local (overnights) market. Also pay attention to location, it is crucial to limit travel time as much as possible. Time (and energy) is precious during the Games. See where most of your events are located. What always helps is to show your (serious) enthusiasm when you are in contact with local people and organizations. That has always helped me.
Tokyo is, for me too, a completely new city and, from what I hear, a considerably more expensive Olympic city. It seems that most hotels are sold out. But I hope that with the above experiences I have shown you that there are ALWAYS more roads that lead to Rome. It can take some time, but luck can be pushed a bit!
Closing; the Olympic trip as a fan looks like a modern Pentathlon; Ticket Hunting, Hotel Hunting and Flight Ticket Hunting. I wish you every success, I will continue to inspire you with my blogs to let you experience your ultimate Olympic Fan Feeling!