Chinese snatch up Olympics tickets

A word to the wise: if you are thinking of coming to the Beijing Olympics and picking up tickets when you are here, fuggedaboutit.

Tens of thousands of Chinese fans got there first.

You might find a couple of tickets available to something like the preliminary soccer heat between Belgium and New Zealand, but that’s about it.

For the more prestigious events there will probably be some scalpers around. But they will have to be discreet in a city crawling with police who have announced a 10-15 day jail term for anyone caught re-selling tickets. And the prices will be crazy.

Not as crazy, in my book, as Xu Yong Heng. He’s the guy, now a media darling in China, who showed up at noon on Wednesday to be at the front of the line when the last remaining Olympic tickets went on sale to the public at 9.00 Friday morning. He sat on a piece of cardboard for 45 hours in sweltering heat and he was only allowed two places when the ticket office opened.

Even crazier, though, were those joining the line - thousands of people and a mile and a half behind Mr. Xu – around midnight on Thursday. Even a night sleeping rough wasn’t going to be enough to get them tickets.

This afternoon I phoned one guy I met last night, to see how he had fared. He said he had given up after lunch when the line descended into chaos and angry scuffles broke out between ticket-seekers and policemen. Even the hundreds of police trying to keep order were not enough to stop people cutting in line and he realized his chances were getting slimmer by the hour.

The Olympics are causing Beijing residents a lot of inconvenience - increased security checks everywhere, only allowed to drive every other day, congested metro trains – and I shall be returning to these in later posts.

But there is no doubting the extraordinary enthusiasm that these Games have fired in ordinary Chinese breasts. At the Athens Olympics in 2004, the stadium was half empty for the first week or so. You can bet that won’t happen here.

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