Tix Scam and Coach K on Treadmill
The odd thing about the Olympics is that every single person you meet has a minimum of two amazingly bizarre Olympic stories to tell. I'm pretty sure this is a hard-and-fast rule. Like, the parents of the Swedish handball players who scalped their way in to see their daughters? The night before I met them they had randomly encountered legendary Swedish table tennis player Jan-Ove Waldner at a Danish restaurant. You just can't avoid such things.
So when I ran into a group of USA-chanting American fans at the boxing gym this week, I knew for sure that two good stories were in store. And here they were: the group of 18 Americans had paid $7,500 per for an Opening Ceremonies-headlined ticket package, only to discover once they arrived here that the tickets didn't exist.
On the other hand, it turned out that the entire USA Basketball operation was staying at their hotel, allowing Jeff Horowitz--one of the members of the group--to jog on a treadmill next to Coach K just a few hours before the team's first basketball game.
Let's go with the ticket scam first. They bought their packages from a U.S.-based company in December. The highlight was the Opening Ceremonies and three "A"-level venue passes, which went for $7,500 per, which means a total of $135,000. When they got here last Thursday, the tour company picked them up at the airport and brought them to their hotel. The next day was the Opening Ceremonies, and "they let us know that they had this problem," Andy Horowitz, Jeff's dad, told me. Which was?
"They didn't have any tickets for us."
Yeah. I can see where that would be a problem. So instead of going to the Ceremonies, which they had flown here from Southern California specifically to do, the Americans sat in their hotel restaurant and watched everything on TV.
"It was actually kind of painful to watch on TV, just because we knew we could have been there," said Jeff Horowitz, who used to live in China.
"I think for a lot of people watching it, sitting there, the mood in the room was just getting more and more angry," said 27-year old Coley Dale, who lives in Shanghai but came here to meet friends in the group.
The tour company scrounged around and came up with assorted tickets for lesser-tier events: boxing and men's volleyball and judo and men's gymnastics and some swimming. They had also promised a 200-percent guarantee if the tickets didn't arrive, so the Americans are figuring this thing will wind up in court.
"But it doesn't exactly satisfy us since we came here for the only purpose of going to the Opening Ceremonies," Andy Horowitz said.
Kind of a downer, even though they all said they were making the best of things and having a good time. And then, before I could leave the co-founders of DressMonkey, the good news emerged.
"The best thing about this trip is that the USA basketball team is staying at our hotel, so I hang out with LeBron and Kobe like every day," Jeff said.
"Not hang out," Coley corrected.
"Well, you know, say hi, slap hands," Jeff said.
"You walk past them in the elevators," Coley said. "He worked out next to Coach K [Sunday]."
"On the treadmill, right before the game," Jeff confirmed. "He was studying the game. hH was watching the Lithuania-Argentina game with the headphones on. He didn't look off the screen, he was just studying the game."
"It was like a fast-paced walk," Codey said of Coach K's workout. "In the spa, we were like, 'Good luck Coach K,' and he gave us this look like 'Ooookay, thanks.' "
"But all the players are really, really nice," Jeff said. "I talked to Chris Paul, shook his hand, said 'Good luck, how do you like China?' I have a picture with Boozer....LeBron actually ran into my shoulder. I was looking the other way and then we brushed up."
"He consumes almost the entire compartment in the elevator," Andy said of LeBron.
They also told me that Dikembe Mutombo is staying at their hotel. Looks like I'll be making a trip to [name of hotel redacted for security reasons.]
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