/ 5 May 2008

System meltdown as China tries to sell tickets

China’s Olympic ticketing system appeared to suffer another meltdown as the final phase of sales for the Beijing Games got under way on Monday, fans and official media said.

Long internet delays and system crashes were reported as the 1,38-million tickets went on sale, echoing last year’s fiasco in which the computer booking network completely crashed under the high demand for seats.

China’s official Xinhua news agency said the online booking system ”seemed to hit a snag again” on Monday.

Some people said they could not buy tickets, either directly at Bank of China outlets or online.

”I went to the Bank of China this morning [Monday] but there were nearly 100 people in line so I went home and tried online,” said Yan Ziyu, a Beijing student. ”I tried for four hours online, but got nothing.”

Some buyers said the internet system collapsed during the payment process, or messages would pop up saying ”temporarily disabled” when they tried to purchase.

Xinhua said the online sales system turned ”problematic” as buyers could not complete the payment process, despite being able to log on to the website and select tickets easily.

Unlike in October last year, the system did not crash completely, and some fans said they managed to buy tickets online after many attempts.

Despite the Xinhua report, an official at the Olympic Games ticketing centre said the system had worked well on Monday.

”There is absolutely no problem on the web to buy tickets,” she said.

The official, who refused to be named, could not say how many tickets had been sold by Monday afternoon.

But Xinhua, citing the Olympic ticketing centre, reported that more than 60 000 tickets for eight competition sessions had been purchased three hours after sales began at Bank of China branches and online.

Some online bloggers said they were disappointed they could not buy tickets.

”On the internet, you can’t finish your payments, the system automatically crashes,” wrote one netizen on a popular web portal.

”The poor, poor ordinary people who queued all night, they are always made fools of.”

The tickets will be on sale until June 9, with 58% of the total number costing less than 100 yuan ($13), in an effort to keep the Olympics affordable for most Chinese people.

A spokesperson for the Beijing Olympic organisers was unavailable for comment.

After last October’s ticketing troubles, embarrassed Olympic organisers sacked the head of the ticketing system. — AFP