The sale of the second tranche of Olympic tickets was suspended last night after overwhelming demand caused chaos during the day: the booking system crashed, phone lines were jammed and serpentine queues formed at banks.
|A woman looks at a brochure as she waits in line to purchase tickets for next year's Olympic Games, at the headquarters of the Bank of China in Beijing October 30, 2007. [Agencies]
An official from the BOCOG Ticketing Center said Tuesday night that the Games organizers had decided to temporarily halt domestic ticket sales to improve the technical plan and will announce new ticketing information on November 5.
"Because of the overwhelming volume of page visits, the technical system was unable to perform the tasks well enough, and many applicants were unable to successfully submit their applications," the official said, adding: "We sincerely apologize to the public."
The first-come-first-serve scheme had 1.85 million tickets on sale through the booking website, a hotline and designated branches of Bank of China.
But demand was much higher than organizers anticipated: According to the Beijing Olympic Ticketing Center, the official ticketing website (www.tickets.beijing2008.cn) saw 8 million hits in the first hour starting 9 am, while the ticketing hotline received 3.8 million calls.
Only some 9,000 tickets were sold in two hours; and the ticketing center confirmed that successful orders will be valid.
A total of 7 million tickets are available for the Games, with about 75 percent reserved for domestic sale. The first 1.6 million tickets were allocated after a lottery earlier this year. The third phase - from April to August next year - will also sell tickets on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Wu Chao was typical of the intrepid fans who just wouldn't give up.
"I visited the ticketing website at 9 am sharp but failed to place an order," said the 29-year-old IT manager in Beijing. "Then the system crashed, and I couldn't log onto it anymore."
Wu then decided to try his luck with the ticketing hotline.
"I used two phones at the same time and kept calling for almost half an hour," he told China Daily. But when he finally got through, the operator told him that they were using the same ticketing system and their system had crashed, too.
"I and my coworkers in the office have been trying all day. I will not give up."
Some companies even encouraged their employees to turn ticket buying into a team building activity.
The human resource department of an IT company sent a group email the day before yesterday, asking all staff to buy tickets online.
"We all showed up in the office before 9 am and tried to get tickets," said Ma Mei, one of the employees. "We helped each other and exchanged the latest information, it was a lot of fun."
Going to Bank of China branches was another way to get tickets, but fortune favored only a few early birds.
Mu Di, who waited outside the Bank of China headquarters from 2:30 am, finally got two tickets for the men's tennis singles and men's 100m hurdles final.
Most who waited in long queues at the 1,000 BOC branches were not as lucky.