Tempers flare in queue for last batch of Games tickets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 July, 2008, 12:00am

HK crew held for filming brawl as thousands seek seats

Thousands of people braved sweltering weather yesterday in Beijing to queue for the last batch of Olympics tickets going on sale today.

Amid the queues, a Hong Kong-based television network claimed, a crew was detained by police and requested to erase a video clip taken of a brawl.

Now Broadband TV accused mainland police of meddling with press freedoms after its reporter and cameraman were stopped while covering a quarrel over queueing at one of the ticketing spots, where more than 2,000 people had gathered yesterday afternoon.

Games organisers announced on Tuesday that 820,000 tickets would go on sale at booths scattered around Games venues today, including 250,000 for Beijing-based events.

The rest were for soccer matches in Tianjin , Shanghai, Shenyang and Qinhuangdao .

By 4pm yesterday, thousands of people had gathered in a square in front of the Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium, where tickets for the most popular events, including swimming and diving, were to be released for sale at 9am today.

Games organisers restricted sales to two tickets per person.

Xu Yongheng , a clerk at a logistics company, asked for two days' leave from work and arrived at midday on Wednesday to become the first in the queue forming in front of the booths at the Olympic Sports Centre.

'I wanted to buy two tickets for the diving at the 'Water Cube', but didn't have any luck in the first round of the online lottery. Now I think I can definitely get them,' the 25-year-old said.

Hou Yunfeng , a 24-year-old security guard from Jilin province who arrived in Beijing in July just to watch the Olympics, was part of a group taking turns to stake out a spot in the queue.

The group met online, and their territory was marked by two beds, lunchboxes and bottled water.

But people at the end of the queue were concerned the strategy could affect their chances of getting a ticket. He Xin , queuing hundreds of metres away from the front, said the system was chaotic because people at the back could not be sure that those in the front would not allow queue-jumping.

'You see 1,000 people in the front now, and according to the rule of one person for two tickets, that means 2,000 tickets will be gone before me,' Mr He said. 'But if they stand there and later let their family or friends in the queue, tens of thousands of tickets will be gone.'

Meanwhile, in the Now Broadband TV incident, the cameraman was reportedly taken into a police vehicle for questioning and was asked to erase the video footage he had shot.

Now Broadband TV said the cameraman was held until staff from the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council stepped in and mediated.

The station said it was the second such interference in a week that its journalists had experienced while reporting various Olympic-related events on the mainland.

It said its journalists were holding valid press permits.