Unprecedented Olympic basketball ticket frenzy stuns Beijing

2008-07-27 11:34:33 GMT       2008-07-27 19:34:33 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

By Sportswriter Shan Lei

BEIJING, July 27 (Xinhua) -- Noisy crowd disappeared. Peaceful silence returned to the Wukesong Stadium, the basketball venue of the Beijing Olympics, on Sunday, one day after an unprecedented ticketing frenzy took place here.

All the remaining 24,919 basketball tickets of the Beijing Olympic Games were sold out in less than 11 hours on Friday. The tickets were originally scheduled to be sold in three days.

"There were ticket buyers waiting in line on July 23, two days before the start of the selling. They brought blankets, water, food and even small beds with them," said Li Bing, vice secretary general of the Wukesong Stadium, who is in charge of the ticket selling.

About one thousand people slept on the pavement outside the stadium on Wednesday night. Li began to worry on Thursday morning as about 5,000 people were waiting in the line overnight.

"In a few hours there were thousands of people gathering in front of the south gate of the stadium. All the security volunteers and policemen of the stadium took into the post to keep the lines in order," Li said.

Li had to call up for help from local police station Thursday afternoon as over 10,000 people crowded in eight lines before the tickets windows.

"We made several emergency changes as so many people gathered there. We set up barriers to keep the line in order, which extended over one kilometer long banking the outskirt of the stadium."

Only one third of the tickets were scheduled to be sold on Friday. All the tickets were printed out before Friday dawn after negotiation with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) when more and more people joined in the lines.

"Most people wanted to buy tickets of China's matches, especially the match between China and the United States on Aug. 10. These tickets, which had about 1,000 left, were not supposed to be sold until Sunday, as the BOCOG told us. People would have waited about four days if we had not sold them on Friday. It would make the circumstances more complicated if we didn't sell China's match tickets from the very beginning," Li explained.

When the organizers did all their best to keep the crowds in order, the ticket buyers themselves also volunteered to make it easier to wait.

Everybody got a number according to his or her order in the line. He or she could come back to his or her positions in the line if taking pee or bring back food and water from outside.

"There was an interesting thing. A boy came to me on Thursday. He said he brought lunch to his father, but he couldn't find him. Ihad to use the loudspeaker to find out his father throughout the thousands of people," Li said in laugh.

Eight windows opened at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, which were expanded to 21 in the afternoon. Volunteers put several tables between windows to sell tickets. The money were put into paper boxes as there were not enough cashboxes.

"The tickets of the baseball competitions were sold in the other end of the stadium. As all the people waiting there wanted to buy basketball tickets, the people who wanted baseball tickets didn't need to wait in line."

A long table were put behind the windows with all the tickets being piled up on the table. Two volunteers stood behind each window to bring the tickets to the windows when the cash receivers shouted out the tickets they wanted.

"We must make sure that the people in the front lines could get the tickets they wanted after they waited there for two days. We also made some posters in front of the windows to show how many tickets were left for each match. I sat in a van to give the updated information of the tickets through a loudspeaker. All the tickets were sold out before 8:00 p.m. on Friday," Li said.

"We did know the basketball tickets were one of the hottest ones at the Games. But we didn't expect such a spectacular scene. That was one of the most unforgettable moments in my life. I think it was the most impressive ticket-selling scene in the history of the Olympics," Li added.

I have comments _COUNT_