China with Polish Characteristics

August 15, 2008

Plenty of seats but no tickets

Filed under: Uncategorized — chinatalk @ 3:47 pm

From the very beginning getting Olympic tickets wasn’t easy, even for those living right here in Beijing. The procedures kept changing and the demand was so high that one always felt bit overwhelmed by the system. When the last sales opened in May, people stood in lines similar to those from the Spring Festival (when 90% of Chinese travel for family reunions) and the tickets were soon declared completely sold out. It’s surprising then that many of the stadiums are now half-empty. Some of the best seats remain untaken during the competitions, while outside crowds of people stand in lines, desperately hoping to buy something from the underground traders.

On Thursday, by a chance I managed to get a ticket for a good volleyball game (Poland-Serbia). Fans from both teams were stuck outside, unable to go in and cheer on their teams. Some of those determined to see the game finally paid well over 1000 yuan (original price: 80RMB) for a last-minute pass from the traders. Inside there were plenty of stis, which many foreigners found frustrating. “It’s ridiculous that after travelling all the way here we can’t even watch our teams, but they have to bring school trips inside just to fill some places,” told me one of the fans. “Really Beijing is a wonderful experience, but ticketing has become a nightmare.”

Why are there so few tickets around? The rumor going around has it that majority of good spots were handed out to state corporations and Party cadres. As it turned out many of them are too busy working or simply could not be bothered to come and watch anything. Officially, they are also not allowed to trade the tickets away. So the nonsense continues, with very few tickets and plenty of wasted opportunities for the spectators who’d actually care.

It’s not that I don’t think local people shouldn’t have the first grabs at their Olympics. But I feel it was overdone to the point where we’re engaging in a “guerrilla warfare,” sneaking around and trading in the streets just to participate in an international event. Nothing I haven’t experienced before, or that people couldn’t deal with, but was this really necessary?

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