One mln cheap Olympic tickets allocated to Chinese students

2008-07-27 10:25:06 GMT       2008-07-27 18:25:06 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

BEIJING, July 27 (Xinhua) -- "Only 15 days left!" Ma Xiaogang, a middle-school student in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, yelled as he counted down the days to the Beijing Olympic Games.

Several months ago, the teenager assumed he would just watch the long-dreamed Games on television at his home, a small village in the arid region.

"Thanks to an education program, I got three tickets for volleyball, baseball and athletics," said the excited 16-year-old.

Following the practice of previous Olympics, China has set aside about 1 million Olympic tickets, priced at 5 yuan (73 U.S. cents) and 10 yuan, for primary and secondary school students nationwide. The tickets are stamped "Olympic education program tickets."

"Tickets will be distributed to students through provincial education departments to ensure students from all over China will have the opportunity to join the Beijing Games," said Gao Hong, vice director with the Basic Education Department of the Education Ministry

The tickets will be given out mainly in 556 schools nationwide, he said.

Because of the high ticket price, many people, especially students, couldn't watch the Games live.

"It's already difficult for my parents to support my studies. How dare I expect to watch the Olympic Games in Beijing," Ma said.

When hearing the news his school would choose five students to see the Games live in the capital, Ma applied and won.

"I will cherish the experience and share it with my classmates after I go back," said Ma, who was busy learning more about the Olympic Games.

According to the schedule, Ma will leave for Beijing with another 189 students from around the region on Aug. 11. Many of the students are Muslims.

"These students were chosen according to their performance of study and sports activities," said Shi Liwen, an official with the Education Department of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. She added the results were publicized in schools and were under supervision.

According to the Olympic education program tickets project, students from Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Liaoning and Hebei will watch Games in their home cities, and students from the other 27 provinces and regions will be organized to come to Beijing.

To ensure sound accommodation and transport for the students, 10 high schools in Beijing with excellent facilities have been designated as hosts to receive them.

Beijing Hui School will serve the Ningxia students. "We have prepared well and are ready to serve them," said Cao Xiaodong, the school deputy head.

The school has vacated dormitories, bought new sheets and quilts and electric anti-mosquito gadgets for the Ningxia students. It also installed digital cable TV in every dormitory.

Similar to their Ningxia peers, the Beijing Hui School students didn't need to wait hours to buy a ticket.

"Our school is one of the 556 model schools for the Beijing 2008 Olympic education program. We have more than 900 tickets," Cao said. "All our students, if they want, are able to watch the Olympic Games."

University students in the Olympic host and co-host cities will also get some cheap tickets. Students from Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and the earthquake-hit Sichuan Province will be invited to attend the Games.

"Low-price tickets embody the true meaning of mass sports, and everybody has the chance to participate," said David Tool, a U.S. teacher with the Beijing International Studies University.

"The low price ticket project is an important part of the 2008 Beijing Education Program," said Education Ministry official Gao.

In fact, it is also a measure to fulfill the commitment in the host city's contract, which requires China to promote education of Olympic knowledge among 400 million youth nationwide, he added.

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