Scalpers targeted in two-day clampdown

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2008, 12:00am

Beijing police swooped on Paralympic ticket scalpers near the Olympic Green this week, detaining 134 people in two operations that surprised many who had found tickets readily available through legitimate outlets.

Police sources said 99 scalpers had been picked up and 969 tickets confiscated on Wednesday after a similar raid on Tuesday in which 35 scalpers were arrested and 654 tickets seized.

The number of scalpers netted was about the same as in a three-day crackdown during the peak days of the Olympic Games, but the number of tickets confiscated was substantially higher. Beijing police did not detail what caused the surge in ticket scalping but said efforts to stamp out the illegal deals would continue.

The scalping crackdown for the Paralympics came as a surprise to many, given that buying tickets at an on-site booth or through an online ticketing site has not been a problem.

Beijing bank employee Zhang Xiaolong bought two tickets for his parents to a session at the National Stadium, because they had talked about how much they wanted to see the 'Bird's Nest'.

'It couldn't be easier [to buy tickets]. You buy online and pick up your tickets at a bank counter,' he said. When he bought his tickets this month, there were seats available for all events except the opening ceremony.

Many others in Beijing had not even had to pay to watch the Games.

'We have many free Paralympics tickets distributed in this community, so I just wonder who will pay a higher price to buy one,' said Wang Mingyi , 62, who lives near Workers' Stadium in Beijing's Chaoyang district.

Police reports suggested tourists could be the scalpers' targets.

Officers said they followed two men and caught them trying to sell tickets to tourists at higher prices. Another man, who had 10 track-and-field tickets, was caught trying to sell them to tourists outside the Summer Palace in Beijing's northwestern suburbs.

Ticket scalping, though criticised by authorities, reflects the popularity of the Paralympics in China, which has pleased the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.

Bocog official Wang Wei said the venue occupancy rate on the first two days of the Paralympics had reached almost 90 per cent, on a par with many Olympic events.

'I went to an event at Workers' Stadium and I saw all the seats, except for areas reserved for journalists and officials, filled up. I'm pleased with what I saw,' Mr Wang said.

He said the public had bought 1.15 million tickets and organisers gave out 620,000 tickets free of charge as part of a 'public education' programme.

To ensure a safe Paralympics, vehicle checkpoints at road entrances to Beijing would stay in place until the end of the Games and vehicles from outside Beijing were encouraged to stay away, a police source said.

No profit

Ticket scalping, though criticised, reflects the popularity of the Paralympics in China

The number of people arrested for scalping on Tuesday and Wednesday is: 134