Tickets for favourite events sell out in hours
Zhuang Pinghui and Choi Chi-yuk
Tickets for popular Olympic events were snapped up within hours of the sales booths opening yesterday, during the fourth round of ticket sales in Beijing.
By 4pm, tickets for gymnastics, diving and synchronised swimming - sports in which Chinese teams are traditionally favourites - had all been bought by enthusiastic fans who had queued for two nights and a day at the Olympic Sport Centre Gymnasium, where the ticket booths opened at 9am.
Tickets for rhythmic gymnastics, badminton, the canoe-kayak slalom, rowing and marathon swimming also sold out at other stadiums, according to a statement on the Games' organising committee's website.
Han Ruxiang , 76, queued for more than 40 hours at the gymnasium to get tickets to the diving finals, which he will attend with his 67-year-old wife.
'I'm very tired, but I'm really, really happy,' Mr Han said. 'This is the first time that China has held the Olympics, and I will be part of it.'
Zhao Yufeng , a 57-year-old retiree, happily held her two hard-earned tickets and said: 'This time the Olympics is held in my home. How can I not be part of it?'
Asked whether the ticket was worth the trouble of little sleep, no bath and two nights and a day in the heat, Ms Zhao said she could 'eat bitterness, and that can't be compared with the joy of getting the tickets'.
Sui Xu , who queued for a day but did not get the diving tickets he had wanted, blamed bad management and chaos for his missing out.
'At least 2,000 people started a mad rush around 4.30am when rumours spread that another ticket window would open,' he said. 'People abandoned their queues and engaged in a near stampede.'
Squads of police, armed police and security guards grouped people into small sections and 'let people squeeze in front of those who were actually queuing at the front before the stampede', Mr Sui said.
Others complained that there was no information booth at the venue, and ticket buyers who had arrived in the morning had no alternative but to turn to police officers for information.
The stock answer they got was: 'You have to find the end of the queue, but I don't know how you can get there.' Otherwise, it was a simple: 'I don't know. You are blocking the way. Don't stand here.'
This fourth round of ticket sales allowed each person to buy up to two of the 820,000 remaining tickets, 250,000 of which were for competitions in the Beijing area.
The authorities abandoned their plan to sell the tickets over three consecutive days, and announced through loudspeakers that all the tickets were up for sale yesterday.