Marathon efforts to land the money an ideal case for a little Olympic glory

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2008, 12:00am

If queuing ever becomes an Olympic sport, Hong Kong should have plenty of potential medallists.

Thousands of people have braved a thunderstorm, fought back hunger and fatigue and even resisted the call of nature in the past two days in a quest for Olympic prizes.

But in this case the rewards for their marathon efforts were not medals but pieces of paper - Olympic-themed banknotes produced by the Bank of China.

Those who went the distance after queuing since Monday, broke into cheers as they received certificates entitling them to pick up the notes today.

But for Joe Leung, 50, it was not so easy. Mr Leung, who suffers from heart disease, started to queue at Bank of China (Hong Kong's) Oil Street branch in North Point late on Monday night.

He reluctantly left the queue about 2am yesterday in the midst of a heavy rainstorm after getting what he said was a police officer's assurance that he had safely registered for a 'purchase pass' for a set of banknotes.

Unsure about his chances, Mr Leung returned at 9.30am and his fears were confirmed when a bank employee told him that there was no record of his registration.

'There was no way but to queue again,' Mr Leung said.

He joined a queue that had grown to about 1,000 by noon, but after more than two hours in the sun could stick it out no longer due to his heart illness. 'The process is really too long for me,' he said.

He decided to call it quits and buy notes in the second-hand market later, despite expecting higher prices.

Mr Tso, a 30-year-old disabled man, joined a massive queue in Admiralty. 'I think the bank has overlooked the needs of disabled people like me,' he said.

The queue stretched from the Bank of China tower in Central to Pacific Place in Admiralty.

Poon Kwun-yin, 10, and her brother, Poon Kwun-leung, five, queued in North Point with their mother from 8am yesterday.

But it was a complete waste of time for the siblings because children under 11 years old were not allowed to buy the banknotes under a rule that took effect yesterday. It was not until late in the afternoon that the family found out about it.

Mrs Poon said it was unfair that some children had been allowed to register on Monday - before the new rule took effect.

'They are both sweating but can get nothing,' Mrs Poon said in dismay.

But the family was not giving up. Mrs Poon ended up obtaining a 'purchase pass' and her husband started queuing late in the afternoon.

Note worthy

The new Bank of China notes are finding buyers on the grey market

A set of 35 uncut HK$20 bills that sold for HK$1,388 are reportedly being sold on the secondary market, in HK dollars, for more than: $10,000