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Archive for the ‘Tickets’ Category

This is one of the final posts on the Beijing Olympics Blog – the experiment is coming to an end, and to be honest, since getting back from China Bob has found it hard to summon up the time and enthusiasm to keep posting. To sign off it’s time to review the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, identify lessons to be learnt for London 2012, and on a personal level to review the blogging experiment.

So, lessons for London 2012.

Don’t over-price

Despite the attention on empty seats and ticket touts it certainly seemed to Bob that most events were well attended by Chinese fans who were thrilled to be there. Bob watch Christine Ohuruogu win the 400m gold sat high in the stands next to a man from rural Shanxi province who had bought just one ticket and was determined to enjoy the night. The lack of Chinese athletes did not dampen his spirits, but prompted him to join Bob in cheering anyone British. He even had a stab at ‘God Save The Queen’!

Don’t over-price tickets in London, make international sport accessible for all.

Don’t get too obsessed by the medals table

This is something that the Beijing organisers were guilty of. There has been a great recognition of the advancement of Chinese elite sport leading up to the Olympics, and while this will undoubtedly inspire uptake of sport across the country most reports suggest that grass roots sport has not been promoted (see China Review 43 page 18. London 2012 should be able improving sports access in the UK, and the medal success should be a reflection of that, not a priority over it.

Some of the most controversial events in Beijing were related to poor judging and ineligible athletes in sports where it seemed the Chinese team were desperate to contribute to the country’s medal tally. The pressure on the people involved undermined the sporting achievements.

Let people gather

People who have attended both the Sydney and Beijing Olympics tend to agree on one thing; the atmosphere within the host city was better in the 2000 Games. This has a lot to do with the lack of spaces for fans from different countries to gather an celebrate in Beijing. Big screens were few and far between, sponsored events in the city were rare, and people without tickets were not allowed within the vicinity of the stadia. Understandably the Chinese authorities are not keen on large gatherings of people in Beijing, and this inhibited the Olympic spirit in Beijing.

Not everyone who attends the London Olympics will be able to get tickets for their favourite events but there is more to the Olympics than that. The London organisers should put together as many events as possible. Most essential of all: sites with big screens around the city where people can gather. Although London will probably have more security concerns than Beijing, there are alternatives to restricting freedoms.

Free transport for ticket-holders

Another of the success stories from the Beijing Games was the free transport. It’s not so much about saving money, but about making visitors feel welcome and facilitating a great experience. London’s transport is expensive, and this is a must for 2012.

Enable resale of tickets

Another of the many things the Chinese organisers did right was to turn a blind eye to ticket resale. Without this there would have been more empty seats, more disgruntled visitors, and less atmosphere in the stadia. However, Bob has no sympathy for ticket touts, who inflate the price of events, make it harder for real fans to get tickets legitimately and cream off profit without doing anything to earn it. Instead the London 2012 organisers must facilitate ticket resale and exchange at face value. A dedicated website and amnesty zones around the city should be set up to allow unwanted tickets to be passed on fairly.

Refreshments – not just a chance to make a buck

Sporting events have a tendency of serving terrible food for equally unpalatable prices, so it was refreshing in Beijing that the mark up was minimal (even if the food was still awful). London is an expensive place as it is, and there is a chance visitors will feel like money is being wrung out of them if food and drinks aren’t affordable.

In London the refreshments should be a chance to show-case good, healthy, local, and affordable delights. London can break the mould and make eating and drinking part of the experience rather than an unavoidable necessity for visitors. At least more choice than just McDonald’s!

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As the rain poured down in Beijing on Thursday it seemed like a good opportunity to stay in and catch up on some blogging – unfortunately Bob’s internet connection disagreed, and would not allow this post. Trying again now, on Friday. It has been difficult to fit in posts, around ticket-hunting, sport-watching, exploring Beijing and accessing WordPress. It has been hard enough just to keep up with the rapid flow of British gold medals that just seem to keep coming! Fair play to the folks at the BBC live text commentary, who keep Bob up to date with what’s going on; it can’t be an easy job being a journo out here. However, a dedicated press centre, access to BBC TV and not having to run around looking for affordable tickets must help a bit.

Bob has been fortuitous enough to see two British golds, a silver and a bronze, and that is without even making it as far as Qingdao for the sailing or Shunyi for the rowing.

On Sunday night Bob and friends were the beneficiaries of four top-grade seats in the National Indoor arena to watch gymnastics. Coincidentally this was the day in which the only male British gymnast to make it to a final was performing. The event was the pommel horse, and the man was Louis Smith. With gymnastics it is hard sometimes for the lay-person to know when someone has done well or not, but along with the American competitor Smith’s routine was identifiable for its individuality. To see the first gymnastics medal for a British male in 80 years was thrilling!

The velodrome has been the source of 7 of Team GB’s golds, and was top of Bob’s ticket wish-list. Saturday afternoon was spent fruitlessly waiting outside, in the far western suburb of Laoshan, and things did not look promising, until finally persistence paid off with tickets for Monday. It was well worth the graft to see Chris Hoy, Jamie Staff and Victoria Pendleton in dominating form, and on top of that to see the Men’s team pursuit win gold in another world record time! Alas, we had to leave before we could hear the anthem as we had an appointment in the Bird’s Nest.

We needn’t have worried, ‘God Save The Queen’ is getting regular airtime in Beijing this month, and sure enough Bob was present in the Bird’s Nest on Tuesday night to join Christine Ohuruogu in belting it out. All of this success really seems to have awoken a sense of nationalism in Bob – not normally one to carry a Union Jack or swell with pride at the strains of the anthem. Bob can’t help but wonder if it has had the same impact back home – is it great to be British at the moment?

Ohuruogu’s gold was all the more exciting because of the way it was won. Starting just below Bob (as the commentators might have described it), American pre-race favourite Sanya Richards flew off into an early lead, leaving Christine down in 6th or 7th. However, 24-year-old Brit showed amazing self-confidence and experience, giving herself a lot to do down the home straight, but with enough in the tank with which to do it. For the final 50 meters the rest of the field appeared to be running backwards while Ohuruogu powered on slaying one after the other with enough time to spare to win by a clear margin. Brilliance, pure brilliance. The volunteers in the stand nearby appeared to be infected by the excitement too and congratulated Bob so many times it was as if they believed he has run the circuit below.

Although overshadowed by the 400m gold, Germain Mason’s high jump silver medal was an even more unexpected addition to the tally, and an equally impressive performance. The man beat his personal best, only to be bettered by Andre Silnov who is quite simply in a league of his own anyway. Roger Black’s comments about racing for silver when competing in the same race as Michael Johnson come to mind, and in this case Mason stepped up to the plate when it mattered.

Bob also followed the trail to the BMX track this morning to watch Shanaze Reade. Supremely powerful Shanaze lived up to her billing in the semi-finals blowing away much of the competition. But her third fall in six races on the spectacular Chinese track came on the final bend in the final race and cost her a medal. Shanaze was sitting in second place, and crashed in an overtaking manoeuvre, risking a guaranteed silver for a possible gold. This is the first time Shanaze has been beaten all year, and she looked not only physically hurt (possible broken hand) but mentally crushed. No hear though, she will certainly be back, and could be great. Really great!

(Pictures will follow, but the connection to WordPress is just too slow at the moment…)

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2008 Olympic Football Match in Shanghai

2008 Olympic Football Match in Shanghai

Bob’s Olympic experience kicked off on Wednesday at the football qualifiers in Shanghai. The game could hardly be described as thrilling – New Zealand lost 1-0 to Belgium in a match so one-sided that the Belgians appeared to miss opportunities out of embarrassment for their opponents more than inability. The highlight for the smattering of Kiwi fans being the team’s farewell haka – this being their final match having failed to qualify for the knock-out stages.

The team will by now already have left China, as athlete’s permission to stay in the country expires within 24 hours of elimination from the tournament.

Unlike events in Beijing, the Shanghai football matches appear to have a tickets still available from the Stadium, so it is a safer bet for a bit of the Olympic experience than coming up to Beijing.

The Shanghai Stadium also looked excellent – considerably smarter than three years ago when Bob visited. Three-quarters full with fans, and absolutely flooded with volunteers and security staff. The drinks stalls resembled the infamous Chinese department stores with more employees than customers, and five people doing one job. Simply to buy an orange juice Bob had to order from one person, who then requested the bottle from two others directly behind him; meanwhile another girl had provided a cup and a fifth volunteer was giving change for a 10yuan note.

Volunteers at the 2008 Olympics at Shanghai Stadium

Volunteers at the 2008 Olympics at Shanghai Stadium

To be fair to the volunteers the apparent monotony of having so little to do – matched by the monotony of the match, one might suggest – did not dampen their enthusiasm; there were smiles galore.

Unlike the New Zealand football team, this was only the beginning of Bob’s Olympic adventure. Now in Beijing (under sunny skies, no less) Bob is looking forward to some athletics, and is hoping to catch some of the Olympic spirit in the Beijing bars this weekend. Onwards…

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The familiar site of a huge sporting event with empty seats has struck again in Beijing it seems. Many of the lower profile events – despite being completely sold out! – have failed to draw a full crowd.

Empty Seats In Beijing Cause Concern For Organisers And Dismay For Fans

Empty Seats In Beijing Cause Concern For Organisers And Dismay For Fans

This is really upsetting for fans, particularly those who have not been able to purchase tickets legitimately, but would love to be in these empty seats. Bob is speaking from experience.

The Beijing organisers have said that they will be hiring “cheerleaders” who cheer for both teams to bolster the atmosphere. What a shame. Good job if you can get it though!

Of course this is not the first (or certainly the last) time that this has happened. Bob was is Japan in 2002 for the Football World Cup, where FIFA made a right royal mess out of the ticketing situation, leaving thousands of travelling fans outside half-empty stadia. (What made it worse in Japan was that not all of the matches were even televised locally, as the competition was so low-key!) And Bob has distinct memories of Raphael Nadal and Novak Djokovic walking onto court at Roland Garros to wage war in a semi-final in front of a fashionably later French crowd.

However BOCOG are not FIFA (thank Buddah!) and the enthusiastic Chinese crowds are far from the moody Parisians. One would be forgiven for expecting a full house for every single event, with the level of excitement that the organisers have whipped up in China.

Some people are blaming corporate ticket allocations – fair enough, it is usually these seats that are empty in Football matches, or at Wimbledon. But speaking as someone who knows a number of people in some of the top Olympic sponsors (sorry, can’t name names) this doesn’t appear to be the case. Even they are finding it hard to get hold of the tickets.

So, it is a mystery. But until it is solved, Bob is off to volunteer as a cheerleader… now where to go, the Bird’s Nest, the velodrome…?

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China Stop - No Entry

In recent weeks there has been a lot of confusion and discussion about the rules for applying for a Chinese

visa. Although few public announcements have been made, more and more stories have emerged from people having difficulty in getting hold of a visa. In particular (short stay working) ‘F’ visas have been tough to come by.

Bob may be a little slow in picking up on this story, but has been well and truly caught up in the confusion. For weeks now colleagues in Shanghai have been trying to advise Bob about whether it will be possible to acquire an F visa for a working trip this summer, which will coincide with a spell in Beijing for the Olympic Games.

The Chinese Embassy in London have been particularly opaque: the website contains no update since April, the telephone number does not appear to work (or is constantly engaged) and an email enquiry into the current length of stay F visas are being granted for brought the response, “The information you require can be found on our website”. Really?

Getting to Beijing this summer could be harder for Olympic fans than for Oscar Pistorius at this rate. In fact Bob is beginning to think that it may be easier to get some running spikes and work on making one qualifying for Team GB.

No such worries will befall families of athletes, who will not require a visa to enter China. Maybe Bob could marry an athlete…?

China Visa ChangesThese restrictions seem like a very effective way of deterring and alienating potential visitors to China’s showcase. Rumours from colleagues in Shanghai also suggest that travel on public transport may be restricted into and around Beijing to anyone not possessing a ticket to an Olympic event. You can’t help but fear than such bureaucracy and control will feed into the hands of anyone with reservations over China’s Olympic credentials, and could mar a spectacular event. However Bob does not wish to fan the flames of speculation too much at this stage…

On a final lighter note, Danwei has summarised BOGOC’s guidelines about the kinds of foreigners who will not be welcome in China for the Olympics as:

“No hookers, pimps, dealers, terrorists, activists, revolutionaries, missionaries, demonstrators, pornographers, gun nuts, maniacs, sufferers of mental diseases, carriers of infectious diseases, poisonous snake collectors, beggars or drunkards.”

As long as you don’t fit the above criteria and were thinking of applying for a visa, Shanghaiist and The Beijinger have pretty decent summaries of the situation.

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Where will you be on 10th July? If you are in Beijing and you call by the National Olympic Stadium you may catch the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games. Only the rehearsal mind, the dates of which have been announced today.

The announcements do not reveal whether creative director Zhang Yimou or collaborator Steven Spielberg will be there.

Nor does it divulge whether artificial mitigation of rains will be used to guarantee good weather for the rehearsal in the way that it is planned for the main event on 8th August.

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Tickets…

Though this site is not intended as a travel guide for those visiting the Olympics (we do not claim to be the highest authority in such matters) efforts will be made to include as much detail on tickets, how they’re being distributed, and how possible it is to attain them. Already this sounds like a contentious topic

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