Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beijing Olympics; Where is everybody?

Let's begin here. This sign indicates that today's weightlifting competition is sold out. Come inside with us to verify...

Does this venue look full to you?

Me neither. Here's the thing: I understand that "sold out" doesn't necessarily translate to "full house". A sold ticket is not the same thing as a warm rear end in a seat. But why can't we find tickets when venues are only two thirds full? It is puzzling to say the least.

We've been told that scalpers paid migrant workers to stand in line for official tickets.(When tickets sold out, they rioted because without tickets they wouldn't be paid. They were supposedly subdued with synchronized swimming tickets.)

The secondary issue is the severe punishment the Chinese government has threatened to those selling their officially gotten tickets above face value. We've not seen any scalpers out and about on the streets, though we have seen plenty of foreigners carrying hand lettered signs in Chinese and English saying "I need tickets." Not sure if this is working for them or not.

The official explanation for the empty seats is that corporate sponsors are not using their comped tickets. Alternatively, some tickets covers six hour long blocks of games and since people can't re-enter once they leave, many people (us included) come and go.

All of this makes sense, but it still feels baffling when you see the frenzy and excitement on the streets and on Craigslist Beijing. I'm glad we've got our tickets lined up already.

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