The 2008 Summer Olympics will punctuate three decades of development and test China's global legitimacy. They've already transformed the way millions of people think and live. Seattleite and Fulbright researcher Daniel Beekman brings you Beijing.
July 25, 2008 10:51 AM
Posted by Daniel Beekman
China's remaining 250,000 Olympics tickets went on sale at 9am Friday in Beijing. Enormous crowds turned out for the rush - sports fans and ticket-seekers grasping for a piece of Chinese history.
Thousands camped outside the iconic new Bird's Nest (National Stadium) and Water Cube (National Aquatics Center) - obscured by sweltering smog cover - overnight, determined to snag spots at the front of ticketing lines.
"Haha! Got'em!" exclaimed a middle-aged man wearing sandals and glasses Friday afternoon. "I feel great. I waited 15 hours standing for Bird's Nest tickets - 24 hours in all."
"I got'em! Bird's Nest here I come!"
Enormous crowds collected on Beijing's Olympic Green Friday - many spent Thursday night waiting in line.
Tempers flared in the midday heat, as security guards struggled to prevent stampedes.
The Bird's Nest will host the 2008 Games' opening and closing ceremonies, sandwiching track & field. The Water Cube will host swimming and diving - a popular sport in China.
Friday morning dawned hot and hazy. Some ticket-seekers sat on newly poured concrete curbs to play poker and wave breezy Chinese fans. Others surged forward in line, pressing impatiently against each other and police barricades.
"It's like we're riding on the subway," chuckled one man, face planted into another man's sweaty back.
An atmosphere of confusion hung over Beijing's Olympic Green, site of the Bird's Nest, Water Cube and other top venues. A steady trickle of exasperated Beijingers wandered past line after tangled line, searching for helpful signage in vain.
"This is the line for water polo, right?" asked a young woman twirling her parasol. "What? This is the line for equestrian? Isn't that going to be held in Hong Kong?"
Thousands of uniformed policemen and security guards swarmed the complex, charged with keeping order. But few were able to answer questions regarding ticket prices and availability.
"Bu tai qingchu," one policeman repeated over and over again, smiling through gritted teeth. "I'm not sure."
A group of security guards, pimply teenagers mostly, held hands to form a human barricade when fans in line for modern pentathlon tickets threatened to stampede.
"I've had enough," muttered one man, turning back.
"Hooray, one less person in line," remarked another ticket-seeker gleefully.
Conspicuously absent from the Olympic green Friday were Beijing's snazzy-dressed Olympic volunteers. Close to one million volunteers will work the 2008 Games. Many are university students, and have already deployed across the city.
"Yeah!" a tiny volunteer waiting to buy handball tickets snorted. "I don't know why there aren't volunteers helping here. It's bizarre."
"There are a bunch of Olympic volunteers here," explained another. "They're just not wearing their uniforms, because the ticket windows won't sell to uniformed volunteers."
By 1pm, a number of sports had sold out and Beijingers clasping precious tickets streamed toward the city's recently opened Subway Line 10. Sales will continue Saturday and Sunday.
"Mei zhunbei hao le," an older woman grumbled, glaring at the Olympic ticket booths. "Totally unprepared."
Photographers took precarious perches to document the ticket rush.
Surprising, only a few of Beijing's million Olympic volunteers were on hand.
A young security guard stares down water-polo ticket seekers.
Security guards form a human barricade.
Sitting out the Olympic heat.
Beijing's most determined Olympic fans camped out for days.
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