A for Athlete


Tickets Sold to See Empty Venues in Beijing[]

September 2008

Beijing residents are lining up for a taste of the Olympics again, this time paying as much as 50 yuan ($7.30) for a peek inside empty sports venues.

The Beijing government is allowing 250,000 visitors a day into the Olympic Park area during next week's National Day celebrations. While entry to the park is free, tickets are required to get into stadiums. A visit to the Water Cube, where swimmer Michael Phelps won a record eight gold medals last month, costs 30 yuan and is limited to 45 minutes.

"The country spent so many billions on these stadiums and my friends and I vowed to get inside to have a look," said Yan Shaoyan, a migrant worker, who waited 12 hours to buy six tickets to the Water Cube. "The ticket prices aren't cheap. I certainly would like to stay a little longer."

A maximum of 120,000 tickets -- the most expensive priced at 50 yuan -- are available each day from Sept. 29 until Oct. 5, according to Emma Entertainment Co., TicketMaster's local unit.

The ticket sale has even attracted scalpers to the main outlet at the Workers' Stadium near downtown Beijing.

One man, who identified himself as Chen Mo, wanted 100 yuan for a 50-yuan ticket to the Bird's Nest, the main Olympic venue where Jamaica's Usain Bolt sprinted to three world records. There were initially no takers among the 2,000 or so people who were standing in the half-mile long line.

The orderly scene contrasted with that of July 2008 when about 50,000 people queued for the final tickets to the Aug. 8-24, 2008 Beijing Games. Scuffles broke out over line-jumping and police had to restore order as buyers thrust money into the hands of scalpers.

Beijing expects to host 7 million local and foreign visitors during the Sept. 29-Oct. 5, 2008 holidays, said Gu Xiaoyuan, the tourism bureau's deputy director.

"These stadiums are good tourist attractions and my relatives who are visiting wanted to see them," said Wei Jianzhong, who runs an import-export business. "There's no other way we can enter than buying the tickets."

It's not just the sites of sporting endeavor attracting local curiosity. Wang Chao, a laborer, waited more than four hours to purchase two 20-yuan tickets to the Olympic Village.

"I wanted to see the place where the athletes lived," Wang said.