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Secret Ways To See The Olympics

July 2, 2008

Gady A. Epstein
Forbes (USA)
June 30, 2008

Interested in attending the Olympics but didn't plan ahead? You may
be in luck--especially if you're a corporate big shot with a private
jet and more than $40,000 to burn on you and your loved one.

A little-known Yale School of Management program for company
chieftains offers four days of business mixed with pleasure from Aug.
9 for $32,395 a couple. The package includes speakers such as Stephen
A. Schwartzman, Hank Greenberg, Peter V. Ueberroth and possibly the
Chinese foreign minister, Yang Jiechi. The pleasure part: "Category
A" tickets (that apparently means they're good seats) to Olympics
events, with the use of cars approved to travel in Olympics-access lanes.

A lucky few might purchase through the Yale program an optional two
days more on the front end with a pair of Games-opening "Category A"
tickets (for another $10,598, or $8,968 for a solo package.) These
prices don't include airfare so you have to get to Beijing on your
own. The big catch: You have to be invited to participate, but you
can invite yourself to be invited by e-mailing info@beijingprogram.com.

If you don't happen to run a company but you consider yourself a
high-net-worth individual--or at least a high-credit-limit
individual--you can still feel like a VIP in China, courtesy of
several high-end travel companies that offer "hyper-luxury" or
"ultra-luxury" options.

Abercrombie & Kent and Imperial Tours offer access to closed parts of
the Forbidden City on private walkabouts that will cost at least
$2,000 per hours-long tour for a group of up to 10 people during the
Olympics, though prices will vary greatly as the Games draw nearer.
Both companies also offer hikes on the Great Wall guided by the
renowned expert David Spindler for an Olympics rate of $5,000 a day,
plus hundreds of dollars more per person for a catered lunch on the
Wall. And you can also get an expert-guided tour of Beijing's art
districts for prices that can exceed $1,000 per group per day--but
significantly more if you want to meet some of China's most famous
contemporary artists in their studios. Other options outside of
Beijing include special access to the famed terracotta warriors in Xi'an.

Many other options are available by discussion, including booking
private tables at top nightclubs, lessons with a tai chi master,
dinner with a top investment banker. As with everything else in
China, the lesson is that with the right money and the right
connections, you can get to the cool stuff.

"Everything is individually tailored," says A&K's Hong Kong-based
Gerald Hatherly, who said his company is doing "very specific"
cultural options for some of Citigroup's (nyse: C - news - people )
private banking clients. Says Guy Rubin of Imperial Tours, "What's
happening at our end of the market is the imagination is the only limitation."

If you want to avoid Beijing altogether, there are still other
high-priced options, including, if you book and fly in a hurry, an
11-day, $5,445-per-person (six-person minimum) trip to far western
China for a horse festival far off the beaten path, offered by the
specialty travel company WildChina. Expert in roughing it without
roughing it, WildChina offers several extravagant packages, including
the "At the Edge of the World" tour, which packs your group off to
the hinterlands beginning as late as July 31. Instead of sleeping in
a five-star hotel, you'll be sleeping in Tibetan Kham royal tents far
from civilization.

The good news is that if you do want a five-star hotel room in
Beijing during the Olympics, China's notoriously tough visa policies
in recent months have taken much of the gouging out of the luxury
hospitality industry's prices. With only so many presidential suites
and quite a few presidents coming to town, you can still expect to
pay more than $15,000 a night for some of the top rooms in town, if
you can book one. But for the rest of the mere mortals on the planet,
last-minute deals likely can be had at lower than the
$1,000-plus-a-night rates being quoted only recently for five-star rooms.

If you manage to spend less on the suite, maybe you can use your
spare dollars to scalp your way into the Olympic Games, which may be
an option in August.
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