A Final Battle for Olympic Tickets

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From my colleague Lin Yang, here’s some footage and an account of the arduous ticket lines in Beijing today:

The final stage of Olympic ticket sales started at 9 a.m. Friday. I wanted to witness the moment of excitement when the ticket windows finally opened and people who had waited for two days got their tickets—if only I could find the head of the line.

I expected to see a large crowd, but not this large. The area around the central Olympic area ticket booth was closed to car traffic, and police lined both sides of the street. When I headed towards the ticket window, the lucky ones had already started to emerge with tickets, looking exhausted and weary, but also happy. It was a very hot day, but people kept arriving, though by then it was likely they would leave empty handed.

It turned out that the tail of the line was about a mile away from the head, and the newly arrived kept getting confused about where they should start. A lady in her 60s was sitting on the sidewalk fanning herself, trying to catch her breath. “I got here at 6:30 this morning, and I just can’t wait any longer,” she says. But her husband hadn’t given up. “My husband and some other relatives are still in the line.”

Those better prepared came with floor mats, chairs, and even tents. A young guy from Shaanxi province had been at the line since yesterday afternoon, and he was still long way away from the ticketing area inside the stadium. “I took leave from work to buy soccer tickets,” he says. “I will wait some more, but I guess if it seems too unlikely I’ll have to give up.” Some people who had clearly given up the hope to get any ticket were complaining about the chaos and overwhelming number of people. I overheard a guy explaining to the people nearby that the ticket line stretched around the entire central Olympic area and once one finally made it into the stadium, “there are another 30,000 people to wait with you. There are just too many people in China.”

The tickets do not come easily. At the end of the video, there is a guy leaning on the fence and fanning himself with the two track tickets he just bought after two days and two nights at the stadium. But to watch the competition on Aug. 22, he’ll have to make another trip to Beijing. He comes from Hubei province, about 500 miles to the south. “I have to return to work”, he told me, “but I will be back again.”

Some people had it even worse at the ticket lines. Here’s a story from Hong Kong’s NOW tv about some of their reporters who were detained by the police. By this point you’d think Beijing cops would have learned that there are more savvy approaches to dealing with television reporters than sticking your hands in front of their cameras.