They played poker, brushed up on their English and smoked cigarettes to pass the time until the 'once-in-a-lifetime' opportunity came along yesterday morning - purchasing a special 10-yuan banknote commemorating the Olympics. Many of those lined up outside Beijing banks said China would likely host the Games only once during their lifetime, so it was worth the wait. Others said the limited print run of 6 million notes, featuring the 'Bird's Nest' stadium on one side rather than the late leader Mao Zedong , would make them a collector's item. All the notes allotted to bank branches in Beijing sold out within 30 minutes of the doors opening at 8.30am. People started queuing as early as Monday night, after media reports said the notes would be available on Tuesday. It was later clarified that banks would only begin to issue the currency yesterday, and just one per customer on presentation of an identification card. Despite the confusion and intermittent drizzle overnight, most were excited. 'This banknote is highly commemorative, and I really want to have it,' said Yang Zhenping , a 50-year public servant, who was third in line. Mr Yang applied for the day off and headed to the Bank of China's headquarters, where at least 500 people, mostly elderly, had begun to line up by late evening on Monday. Retiree Gao Jie said she wanted a banknote for her son, who was involved in printing them. 'Even though he was the one printing the notes, he didn't have a chance to get a one, so I am here to get one for him,' Ms Gao, 55, said. So as some left the banks beaming, others were not so lucky. Bank employees were also fuming about the lack of communication with the central bank. On Monday, the People's Bank of China announced 60 million yuan (HK$68.4 million) in the specially designed 10-yuan banknotes would be issued on Tuesday to mark the Games, but it did not make it clear when they would be ready. Despite its vagueness, the media published the statement, sowing confusion and fraying tempers at banks. The next day at Bank of China's Xidan headquarters, angry customers pushed security guards and demanded an explanation from bank chiefs when they discovered the notes were not available, one employee said. 'Some of them suspected we hid the notes to distribute them among ourselves,' the witness said. 'We told them we didn't have the notes ... but few believed us.' A senior BOC official confirmed the notes had not arrived until late Tuesday afternoon and they were not clearly told how to issue them until very late. 'They [the central bank] do the talking and we are the scapegoats. I hope they have special subsidies ready to repair our broken doors,' the official said. Suspicions continued yesterday, with some people not believing supply had run out. Outside a BOC branch near Jinbao Street, hotel employee Xiao Xiaotian said there was no way the new bills could have gone so fast. 'I guarantee there was corruption. Some will have plenty, but people like us will have none,' Mr Xiao said, as several people milled outside the branch in hope of new supplies. But the BOC official said staff would not dare break the special rules. 'We don't have a single [10-yuan] banknote left inside our system and all of them were sold to the public,' the Bank of China official said. Commercial banks were clearly told by banking regulators that any insider hoarding of the new bills would result in 'severe consequences', he said.