Last Olympic tickets sold

Beijing's online ticketing system survives the last rush.

    Another satisfied customer: Zhu Ling displays
    her Olympic tickets [GALLO/GETTY] 

    Beijing's online ticketing system, which collapsed six months ago under the crunch of Olympic ticket demand, was slowed but seemed to survive as the last batch of domestic tickets went on sale.

    About 1.38 million tickets went on sale Monday at Bank of China branches and on an official website.

    Buyers reported waiting several hours to buy at Bank of China outlets.

    Attempts to buy online were slow and some purchases difficult to complete.

    Beijing organisers said four competition sessions sold out in the first 30 minutes with tickets available in sports like boxing, football, baseball and wrestling.

    "The website may become a little bit slow at peak hours, but it's still normal and there's no problem,'' said Zhu Yan, director of the Beijing ticketing center.

    He said about 320,000 tickets were sold with the system, at its peak, receiving 27 million hits in an hour.

    Six months ago when organizers attempted to sell online, overwhelming demand in the first few hours crashed the system.

    Embarrassed organisers reverted to a lottery system and demoted the director of ticketing.

    Organisers promised several weeks ago that the online sales system would work this time.

    A long wait

    Sales at banks seemed to start smoothly with buyers waiting for several hours for a chance to purchase tickets.

    Hundreds lined up at bank offices around Beijing, hoping to accomplish their mission.

    "I bought tickets for the track and field finals,'' said a man who called himself Mr. Liu, in line at a bank in central Beijing.

    He said he got lucky, purchasing tickets for the same day that Liu Xiang is expected to defend his title in the 110-meter hurdles.

    Olympic tickets are in high demand
    as expected [GALLO/GETTY]

    Liu and basketball star Yao Ming are China's two most famous athletes.

    A year ago, organisers said about 7.2 million tickets would be available for domestic and foreign sales. However, a few weeks ago a Beijing official said the number had dropped to 6.8 million. He did not elaborate.

    "We have made sufficient preparation this time including the tests of our network, our credit card operation and our system for the acceptance of purchase applications,'' said Xu Zheng, Olympic affairs director for the Bank of China.

    "The preparation work was done in a very careful way because we had lessons to learn in last year's experience.''

    Despite political discord surrounding the Games, evident in the international legs of the torch relay, ticket demand from China's domestic population of 1.3 billion has far outstripped supply.

    Scalpers watched

    Organisers have said they are taking precautions against fake tickets and scalping, both of which are problems in China.

    Counterfeiting of goods, from heart medicines to DVDs, is widespread in China despite repeated crackdowns.

    Ticket-scalping is also common, with tickets for high-profile events often getting into the hands people who resell at a profit.

    The Olympic torch returned Sunday to mainland China, greeted by cheering Chinese on the tropical island of Hainan.

    The domestic portion of the relay is expected to be trouble-free, winding through every province and region before arriving in Beijing on August 6.

    The Olympics begin August 8.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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