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The epic quest for an Olympic ticket

New Express
July 25, 2008

The 250 thousand remaining tickets to the Olympic games went on sale at nine am this morning at various venues around Beijing. But for many determined citizens, the quest to obtain a ticket to the Olympics started much earlier.

Yesterday afternoon when he was interviewed by Beijing News, Xu Yongheng was sitting in the scorching July sun outside the Olympic Center in Beishicheng Street, Chaoyang District. He had been waiting for 24 hours, and he would wait for another 21 hours until the tickets went on sale.

Xu takes pride in the fact that he is the first one in the line. Being the first person in the three kilometer long line puts him in the spotlight: "Yes, I am the first one. I came at noon on Wednesday." Xu repeats it again and again to the journalists from all forms of domestic and international media.

"Some are from Hong Kong, laowai also took pictures of me..." Xu said proudly. "I want to show the whole world how much we Chinese love the Olympic Games."

People who camp out in line bring with them most of life necessities: tents, mats, folding chairs, food and water. To kill time, many gather to play poker games. Losers are punished with mandatory push-ups. "In the afternoon, you can see people doing push-ups all over the square," the Beijing News reported.

A young man surnamed Gao said he was dispatched by his boss on Thursday morning to wait in line to buy tickets. The apprehensive Gao says that his job is on the line, "My boss says he'll fire me if I can't buy a ticket."

People slept outdoors for the tickets

Gao is worried because even though he will wait in line for 24 hours, there are over a thousand people in front of him. Neither Gao nor his boss are interested in the Games; they are buying the tickets to give as gifts to important clients.

Despite the efforts by authorities to curb ticket speculation, the prices of the most sought after tickets are running high; a ticket to the 110 meter hurdle final in which China's superstar Liu Xiang will most likely compete, is selling on the Internet for 9,000 yuan, more than eleven times the official price.

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If there's anyone who's still brave enough to line up for tickets, check out this post over at the Beijinger for more details.

Surprised Danwei hasn't done an update yet about the scmp reporter 'accidentally' kicking a police officer in the groin during the stampedes.

Roland's got it covered well over at EastSouthWestNorth, including video from major Hong Kong TV stations:


This is great stuff, and the Olympics haven't even started yet! 奥运加油!(Add oil!)

It looks like Beijing police were prepared well on how to speak English with foreigners but officials forgot to issue the capital's cops a separate handbook and cassette on how to converse in Cantonese with Hong Kong reporters.

Yes, that is well covered. Interesting to see the different versions of events.

Also it shows the power of recording equipment. You can clearly see a police officer grabbing Vicky Law Fai-cheung by the throat but it seems the police didn't manage to get footage of Felix Wong breaking through barriers and kicking a police officer in the nuts.

I talked to a mainland SCMP journalist about the incident and he admitted that Hong Kong journalists are often incredibly aggressive.

It's possible we will see more cops/press clashes involving Hong Kong reporters.

In fairness to Beijing police, I should mention that they created a restricted zone as a method of crowd control and Hong Kong journalists ventured into that particular area.
Perhaps Hong Kong journalists should not be complaining about Olympic press freedom inside Beijing's police restricted zones.
Upon further review of the videos, I would also like to add that several Beijing police officers appear to be trying to restrain their colleagues from excessive contact with the Hong Kong reporters.
I witnessed a similar situation involving crowd control in Guangzhou during the Olympic torch relay in May. Police were told to change the security perimeter in front of Zhongshan Memorial Hall one hour before the relay resumed after lunch, upsetting many elderly citizens who had staked out their positions 4-5 hours earlier. A scuffle ensued and Guangzhou police found themselves uncomfortably tangled with several very angry old folks; a photo opportunity that I chose not to take.
There were no journalists present at that difficult moment, but one can imagine why Guangzhou police would not want that moment filmed and photographed by local and international media. They begged cooperation from the Guangzhou citizens and consciously used the least amount of pushing possible.

For a eye-witness account from the Olympic Green last Friday, check out 'Olympic ticket madness' on Blogging Beijing.

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