Paris 2024 has outlined a number of firsts for this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, including the introduction of a singular platform for tickets, and a singular platform for hospitality with the help of On Location. With less than six months to go until the Opening Ceremony begins on the River Seine (another first), TheTicketingBusiness spoke to Will Whiston, executive vice-president of On Location for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are looming, with the world’s greatest athletes descending on Paris between July 26 and August 11 for the Olympics, and again between August 28 and September 8 for the Paralympics.
For past editions of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, tickets and hospitality packages have been on sale via agencies in each country, resulting in multiple places to secure a seat at the world’s largest multi-sporting event.
As Will Whiston, executive vice-president of On Location for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, explained, this could sometimes make it more difficult for potential guests to find exactly what they were looking for. He believes that creating a single platform for ticketing and for hospitality has been a major step forward for both the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“So, this step, especially the hospitality and travel programme, is a full step for the Olympic movement in making this an accessible event.”
“When you look at the landscape of major global sporting events, there’s a reason why the Olympics is one of the most viewed, if not the most viewed event alongside the World Cup. There’s such a large viewership over two weeks, but maybe not as much fanfare on attendance, globally, in the past. And that’s because it’s the most complex event in the world to put on,” Whiston said.
“It’s a massive undertaking and that’s why it’s been very difficult for fans to navigate how to attend the Games. So, this step, especially the hospitality and travel programme, is a full step for the Olympic movement in making this an accessible event. Despite that complexity, we’re able to allow people to understand what they’re going to, be able to access the events they want to go to, and take care of their entire stay in the city.”
Creating an experience
The importance for hospitality at an event such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games extends beyond watching the sport inside a venue. It is about creating an experience, with multi-day stays, and embracing the culture of the host city and country.
“This isn’t B2B hospitality in a venue, where there is a sit-down dinner right before the event, and then you sit in your seats,” said Whiston.
“What the IOC was looking for was an organisation that understood the Olympics were much more than just what’s at the venue, and wanted to encapsulate the whole Olympic experience. And that’s where we, as On Location, are uniquely positioned because that’s what we focus on. We don’t just focus on selling corporate hospitality before a Six Nations match, for instance.
“There’s nothing wrong with that business, it’s a great business and a very important part of the industry, but we focus on major events where there are multiple-day stays, and bringing out the experience of being on-site and not just at the sporting event. And making that a seamless experience. That’s a big reason why they chose us.”
On Location is able to handle the logistical complexity of an event the size of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This is because the firm is able to source and manage accommodations, while building a transportation network and producing seamless hospitality activations, all in-house.
Additionally, while On Location is working on hospitality for at least the Milan Cortina Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2026, and the 2028 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Los Angeles, the key is to create packages that infuse an essence of the host nation. For the Paris Games for example, a team of more than 250 were based in the French capital, building these packages alongside Local Organising Committee (LOC). The ability to create continuity between each Games, but also involve some individuality linked to the host nation, was key for the IOC.
“You need both, so you have to have the base capabilities to produce those experiences, but to then align with the organising committee on exactly the experience that they want,” Whiston said.
“This is innovative because this is an official programme, not an agency operating these packages.”
There are three types of categories when it comes to hospitality for the Games. The first of which is centred on in-stadium hospitality, meaning the guest’s experience is taken care of from when they arrive at the venue, through to the final whistle. This could also include fast lane access, dedicated guest services, a private or shared space, as well as French culinary offerings. Guests could also be treated to momentos from previous Games, or hear from past figures or Olympic legends from the sport they have come to see.
The second is out-of-venue hospitality, where On Location has created an experience featuring a hospitality setting with the LOC – called Clubhouse 24 – which is located in the city. The immersive experience will feature culinary offerings, activations, sport and musical entertainment, and of course attending the sporting event itself. Guests are then welcome to go back to the clubhouse, enjoy the Olympic atmosphere and watch further broadcasts.
The third option is On Location’s travel experiences, which is a combination of the two previous hospitality innovations. The trick here is that all of these experiences can be spread out across three, five, seven or 10 days with travel and accommodation added.
“This is innovative because this is an official programme, not an agency operating these packages,” said Whiston.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are not only a major sporting event, but also a cultural moment. The event should be enjoyed by as many people as possible, which is a particular goal for Paris 2024 president Tony Estanguet with ticket prices, and for On Location with its hospitality offerings.
“Our prices start at €80 (£68/$86), and that’s not just a far seat in the venue, it’s good access,” said Whiston. “We started at €80 for in-the-city hospitality, so it’s not just a ticket to the event, it’s an entire day-long experience at the Olympics.
“Beyond that, a sizeable potion, or at least up to 20%, of our access is available below €250. The is unique versus a World Cup or major event.”
Whiston continued: “We have a range of experiences and levels depending on what people like, but we have done a very important job of making it more accessible. More importantly, price isn’t the only determinable in accessibility, as tickets for events sell out and consumers may turn to an agency. They can go on our website and purchase access to whichever event they want in five minutes.”
Additionally, Whiston explained that planning a trip with multiple sporting events, hotel and transport can cause a headache for those wanting to attend an event of this scale.
“This is going to be a once-in-a-decade cultural moment. We are bringing accessibility in terms of ease of access, and lastly, what I would like to stress is that when they saw the world descends on an Olympic city, it truly is the world. This means that in the past, people didn’t know how to attend the Games, they didn’t know how to get around, where the venues were, or where to stay,” he said.
“You might be able to get access to a hotel near the airport, an hour and a half outside of the city, but this is why we do this advance planning – we source accommodations. We partner with all these hotels. We’ve worked with these hotels to create options to stay for three days, five days of 10 days. It’s very flexible.”
All in one place
Having a singular platform to purchase hospitality has also had the added benefit of security.
“The organising committee has done a very good job at being able to squeeze out and reduce the number of ticket touts and ambush marketers,” said Whiston. “They of course will be in dark corners, but visual tickets help to eliminate that and cut it down.
“The official hospitality programme and the ticket platform are the only place to get guaranteed access, and be in the best seats at the Olympic event of their desire. We have made sure to bring as much availability to as many sessions as possible for fans.”