April 26, 2009

I'm going to the Winter Olympics up in Vancouver in February. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to go someday. I never made it as an athlete, but the ingots I dig out at the software mines will let me go as a spectator.

I got my tickets earlier this year after putting in a request with CoSport, the "Official Hospitality Services Provider for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games." CoSport has done TicketMaster one better: they charge ridiculous handling fees without wasting those fees on frivolities like web servers. Nevertheless, I got tickets to two hockey prelims and to two curling prelims. It was easy to book trains from Seattle to Vancouver: even in business class, which I had to try, it's only about $120 round-trip with no Olympic price-gouging.

The real toughie in going up to Vancouver: lodging. VANOC, the Vancouver Olympic Committee, has placed holds on 20,000 of the roughly 24,000 hotel rooms in the city. CoSport offered me a decent-looking hotel at $725 USD a night. I laughed at the offer and sauntered over to hotels.ca, which shortly within the 331-day booking window offered hotels for between $800 CAD and $4,500 CAD a night — and these were two-star hotels far from the city center.

From there I decided to get creative. Recent startup AirBnB made headlines by letting people rent out rooms or apartments to attendees of Obama's inauguration, but their pickings are slim in Vancouver. The Zen Zone immediately rejected my offer to rent for $100 USD per night during the Olympics. The Funky BOAT is normally just $60 USD per night, but now it's asking $500 USD to live on a boat in the middle of February.

Canadians are legendary for politeness, but homeowners have loonies in their eyes now. Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO) lists dozens of places in Vancouver. Here's a partial rate card for one in-city condominium on VRBO:

  • Sep 15–Dec 18 .. $175/night .. $1000/wk .. $3200/mo .. (3 night minimum)
  • Dec 19–Jan 04 .. $250/night .. $1500/wk .. (5 night min)
  • 2010 Olympics (Feb 12–28, 2010).. $900/nt .. $5500/wk .. (14 nt min)

That's $11,000 CAD you'd have to put up, at least, to be downtown for most of the Olympics. Other downtown properties are similarly crazy: Lux Suites will happily charge you as much as $24,500 for a month's accommodation. That $800 CAD airport motel looked pretty good all of a sudden.

Fortunately, just outside of downtown is Kitsilano, a nice residential neighborhood just a bus ride from the venues. I found a few places on VRBO for $275 to $400 a night and snapped one up on the low end. (I tried using the less expensive properties to negotiate lower rates on the other ones, but during the Olympics the property owners have every right to tell me to piss off, eh.)

I have event tickets, train tickets, an apartment, and some valuable (!) American money to spend while there. All that's left is for my traveling companion to get her passport!