Much has been made of the scarcity of tickets in Beijing and yet in the first week there was a pandemic of half-empty stadia spreading the city. The government have been publicising their active work to shut down ticket touts and prevent illegal re-sale of official tickets. However, this is typical PR and bluff promoted through state-run media, and actually part of the reason for stadium seats being filled has been the relatively free and open re-selling taking place.
The fact is that a large number of tickets were bought early by Chinese people when Olympic ticket fever was as its peak. Now many of these people are realising that they’re not very fussed about watching an under 23’s football match, or Lycra-clad cyclists race in circles. Of course there are also people who have last minute changes of plan, or fail to find friends to join them. As a result there appear to be a decent amount of tickets ‘going spare’, and Bob has been one of the grateful recipients. So far Bob has acquired 9 tickets from a range of different sources, and has paid little over face value on average. So here is some advice (though alas it comes rather late in the day – again, blame the oft mentioned access limitations to WordPress in China).
First piece of advice, check out an article named Cheap Olympic Tickets and the Running of the Yellow Bulls from Ben, who has had even more success than Bob. Ben’s tips are:
-Pick an event and show up at the venue an hour early.
-Arrive at the event knowing you may be walking around aimlessly for the next hour or two scavenging for a ticket. Patience is a must.
-Be aware that there is probably a 15% chance you will not get in to the event at all. This chance goes up exponentially if the event happens to have an athlete named Kobe Bryant, Yao Ming, Michael Phelps, or Liu Xiang who will be competing that day.
-Find an area near one of the gates where spectators who have just arrived are walking in.
-If you see more than one yellow bull in the vicinity, find a new location.
-Know the price of a face value ticket, and have the money (exact change) in hand ready to pay. On one instance, I had made a deal for face value water polo tickets for a friend and me. As I was fishing the money out of my wallet, a yellow bull swooped in and outbid me for the tickets.
-Approach people heading towards the venue, and politely ask them if they have an extra ticket to sell. It doesn’t hurt to emphasize the fact that you actually want to see the event, and aren’t just going to turn around and re-sell it. Several of the tickets I have bought have been from people who specifically did not want their tickets to get into the hands of yellow bulls.
-If the event has already started and you still don’t have a ticket, don’t panic. The people with extra tickets are in an even bigger pickle than you are. This is prime time for people to be dumping off cheap extras. From the minute the competition starts, the value of tickets drops rapidly.
-This entire process is much, much easier if you are willing to go to events alone as opposed to in pairs or groups. Olympic tickets were originally sold in pairs, but finding someone with two extras is considerably more difficult than finding a single. Finding three or more tickets seated together is virtually impossible. For some more low-demand events (i.e. baseball and beach volleyball) you can usually sit wherever you want once you enter the stadium. These are good events to go to if you want to go in a group.
Bob’s experiences match Ben’s (Bob and Ben, what a pair!) and this certainly seems like sound advice.
For anyone looking for the touts (Huang Niu, 黄牛), Beitucheng Metro Station, at the entrance to the Olympic Green is the place to go. They have been there in force for weeks, and don’t even appear to have been put off by recent police warning signs that have been put up. Beware though, the asking prices are ridiculous so be prepared to barter hard or be ripped off.
The hypocrisy of the official statements of cracking down on illegal ticket sales is exemplified by the fact that this unofficial home for ticket re-sale is at the transfer station for all visitors entering the Olympic Green by metro, and is taking place in front of a bemused stall of Olympic Volunteers.