Chaos shows flaws in sales system and police readiness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 July, 2008, 12:00am

The chaos at ticket offices of the major Olympic sports venues in Beijing yesterday does not bode well for the peaceful Games mainland authorities are hoping for.

It has also laid bare the shortcomings of the police and other authorities in crowd management and the poor co-ordination between the Games organising committee, or Bocog, and the police.

Bocog launched the fourth phase of ticket sales, the so-called 'venue sales phase' yesterday, putting more than 800,000 tickets up for grabs, with 250,000 specifically for events in the capital.

Thousands of fans began converging on open areas near some of the major Olympic venues in Beijing on Wednesday, queuing up at makeshift ticket booths in searing heat by day and enduring stifling air and mosquito bites at night.

Thirty thousand descended on areas near the Olympic Sports Centre, jostling for position in a queue that was hard to make out in places.

Authorities said chaos erupted when they tried to open more booths to shorten the queues and the waiting times for ticket buyers. Police also blamed part of the chaos on journalists, accusing them of trespassing.

The chaos comes just two weeks ahead of the Olympics and calls into question the ability of mainland police to communicate and deal with even greater emergencies such as terrorist and bomb threats.

Yu Baohua, 44, an architect who had been queuing at a ticket booth near the sports centre, said police should have expected some degree of chaos as large crowds were always difficult to control. 'They could definitely have done a better job in terms of the way they sold the tickets, such as giving people numbers like they do at the bank instead of letting people stand in a line,' Mr Yu said.

Other ticket buyers questioned the crowd-control abilities of the police, asking why so many officers had been unable to keep order in the queue.

During the first two phases of ticket sales for the Olympics between November and February, people were allowed to book tickets via the internet, over the phone or through Bank of China branches.

The failure of the computer ticketing system forced Bocog to drop 'the first-come-first-served' policy in the second phase and reintroduce the lottery system it adopted at the beginning.

Tsinghua University professor Jia Xijin said there were so many ways to free sports fans from gruelling queues.

'The organisers could have done better in managing the crowd and in communication, to accommodate the concept of the 'people's Olympics',' Professor Jia said.

Bocog spokesman Sun Weide said the venue sales phase was planned in advance and there was little time left for the public to book tickets through other means.

'We made some adjustments and tried our best to shorten the time for people wanting to buy the tickets. We opened more sales windows.

'We will not change the queuing system during this stage of the ticket sales,' he said.

Additional reporting by Peter Simpson and Zhuang Pinghui