Ticket scalpers still setting a hot pace at venues

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 August, 2008, 12:00am

As Olympic medal rivalry reached fever pitch following the start of the athletics events, ticket scalping at Games venues also heated up despite repeated warnings that selling tickets for profit was illegal.

It could not be easier to spot the scalpers outside major Games venues in Beijing, though most prefer to exchange money and tickets away from the eyes of the police.

'No bargaining, one ticket for 2,500 yuan [HK$2,850] and two for 4,800 yuan,' a middle-aged woman told potential buyers.

The athletics ticket for tomorrow had a face value of just 200 yuan, but the huge demand from those eager to experience the atmosphere at the National Stadium drove the price much higher.

Though ticket bargaining went on directly in front of a stadium entrance, police and security personnel paid little attention.

But scalpers have not been given carte blanche to sell tickets at inflated prices, with Games organisers repeatedly warning that ticket scalping will not be tolerated.

Beijing police said 110 scalpers had been arrested by Friday, 17 of them foreigners. On Thursday morning, a foreigner who tried to sell his ticket at 10 times the face value in front of the 'Water Cube' aquatics centre was arrested and all his 24 tickets confiscated, police sources said.

But many scalpers believe police have loosened their checks on ticket dealing, as some stadiums have been half empty for events, even though all tickets had been officially sold out long before the Games.

The United Nations' representative to the Beijing Olympics, Wilfried Lemke, said he and athletes were disappointed by the half-full stands.

Many scalpers believe a tacit compromise has been reached between themselves and police - that as long as no cash deals take place in front of police they will be tolerated.

For the women selling athletics tickets, this compromise seemed to work. 'Trust me, hundreds of tickets have passed through my hands and there has been no trouble,' she said.

Scalper Mr Zhang from Shenyang in Liaoning , even rented an apartment near the National Stadium so his buyers could be led there to complete their transactions.

'Everything is perfectly safe. No fake tickets, no police intervention,' the man said.