Scalpers move in as Chinese gold medallist tickets sell out in three hours in Hong Kong

Despite concern that visit could backfire due to growing independence sentiment in city, fans remain eager to see their sporting idols

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 12:59pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 11:02am

Limited tickets for a series of events this weekend featuring China’s Olympic gold medallists were snapped up within a few hours by hundreds of people on Monday, reflecting the enthusiasm in Hong Kong for the chance to see the nation’s top athletes up close.

But scalpers quickly got in on the act, with some of the HK$20 admission tickets found to have been sold online for as much as 1,000 yuan (HK$1,165).

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department said it had noted the touting and would hand the case to the relevant authorities according to the evidence available.

Many of those who formed snaking queues at four ticketing venues had started lining up the day before and spent the night waiting before ticket sales began at 10am.

All 5,700 tickets on offer for the public at the official outlets in Central, Tsim Sha Tui, Sha Tin and Tuen Mun were snapped up by 1pm. Another 900 tickets were set aside for groups subsidised by the government.

Olympic fans picked up 2,400 tickets for a gala show, 2,400 for a table tennis demonstration at Queen Elizabeth Stadium and another 1,800 tickets for a diving display. Each person was allowed to buy a maximum of two tickets for two out of the three events scheduled for Sunday at HK$20 each.

In addition to the main events on the second day of their visit, which begins on Saturday, the Olympic medallists will also take part in other activities, including a meet and greet session with youngsters in Ma On Shan.

Most of those spoken to by the Post while they were waiting in line were raring to watch the national champions in action after the Rio Games.

Two elderly women who had been queuing at the Cultural Centre since 3pm on Sunday were eager to watch the diving event.

“No matter what, Chinese athletes always have my full support, even though they did not win as many gold medals as they grabbed in 2012,” one of them said.

High school students Hollie Pong and Angela Sze, both 17, joined a 700-strong line at City Hall for tickets to watch their diving idols.

“Admittedly, the Chinese Olympians’ performances in Brazil were not very satisfying,” Pong said. “We hope that they can do better next time.”

There have been concerns that growing localist sentiment could turn ugly and embarrass the national champions, contrasting with the enthusiastic welcomes they have received in the past.

The last time the city hosted the national champions in 2012, some 26,000 tickets were snapped up for the gala show, which was held at the Hong Kong Stadium with an outdoors capacity of 40,000.

This time, the show has been moved indoors and the number of tickets downsized tenfold in a 3,500-seat venue.

Asked if this had anything to do with lower expectations or the possibility of localist protests, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department cited an earlier claim by director Michelle Li Mei-sheung that it was to cater to inclement weather.

They should have spared some tickets for online purchase. People like me who have to work in the day are not able to buy tickets in person
Sports enthusiast Winnie Man

“The weather in August is sweltering and changeable. We hope that we can have a guaranteed and comfortable environment to stage the show,” she said.

Sports enthusiast Winnie Man, who had expected more tickets to be available in Central than in Tuen Mun where she works, was one of those who failed to get tickets.

“They should have spared some tickets for online purchase,” she said. “People like me who have to work in the day are not able to buy tickets in person.”

She complained that the sharp drop in the number of seats available compared with previous years had made it difficult.

The department said it wanted to avoid the risk of its URBTIX system for selling tickets online crashing from the additional load imposed by demand for the Olympic events.

The department suggested that those unable to get tickets should watch the show live on television at home.