Hundreds of thousands of tickets were made available at Olympic venues in Beijing and at the four cities that are hosting football (soccer) preliminaries, but the focus of the ticket-buying action was around a booth at the east gate of Olympic Green. With the grungy skies and the National Stadium (Bird's Nest) in the background, sales kicked off at about 9:00 Friday morning.
According to reports from AP and The Washington Post, things got ugly at the central ticket booth. Both reported fights in the crowd, clashes between press and police and heated exchanges between cops and people in line.
Phase 4 might have been the messiest domestic ticketing phase yet (Phases 1 and 3 were both marred by major technical glitches), but from where I stood in line Friday morning, about 100 yards from the main booth, it was a different story. Waiting for more than three hours, I experienced nothing but civility and patience. The line moved in an orderly fashion on a street blocked off from cars.
As latecomers who had only arrived around 7:30 Friday morning, the people near me had invested much less than those at the front of the line. They expressed little hope of getting tickets and shared the stories they had heard about people who had waited in line for the last two days, eating only bread and not sleeping. One man pedaled off on his bicycle to buy water for others in line, selling it for the same price (1 RMB per bottle) for which he bought it. People met with patience the constant mixed reports and rumors regarding when ticket sales would stop for the day and what kinds of tickets were available.
When I gave up and opted to leave the line for food and water (and to get some work done), I ended up meeting on the subway a trio of Beijingers who had waited for two days and scored tickets to football (soccer) and diving. Despite being hungry and sleep deprived, they were glowing.
"I wasn't planning on staying when I first arrived [at the ticket site]," said Li Yiqing, who, in an animal-print, rhinestone-studded dress, high-heel shoes and thick nylon stockings, was definitely not dressed for two days living on a sidewalk in 93-degree heat. "But waiting two days was not so bad."
I went home thinking that Phase 4 had gone relatively smoothly, only to read the above reports from credible sources that were even closer to the action than I.
The two vastly different accounts of the day's events—the official accredited media's and mine—underscore the significance of time and place in reporting the news, and demonstrate how easily media reports can be skewed by limiting access to certain locales, something that's likely to come into play during the Olympic period in Beijing.
Image: AP via Washington Post
Tags: Beijing Olympics, Olympic ticketing