As my colleague Tom Pellman noted yesterday, lining up for Olympics tickets can be quite a pain. Today, I experienced it for myself.
A couple of friends had spent most yesterday morning and afternoon industriously refreshing the Olympics ticketing site. Their efforts paid off – we scored nine seats for men’s football quarterfinals at Shanghai Stadium.
But now the hard part. We had to go line up at a Bank of China branch to pick up or pay for the tickets (you were allowed to pay online or pay at BOC in person).
At 9am, the Bank of China branch (a ‘wealth management’ branch actually) in Grand Gateway was relatively quiet. There were about six people ahead of us in the pick up/pay line. Another half dozen people were waiting to apply for tickets. The bank’s security guards seemed particularly alert and enthusiastic, officiously announcing procedures for Olympic-related matters. Still, I thought I’d be done in 20 minutes, tops.
Half an hour later, the first pair was allowed into an inner area that was screened off. Another 30 minutes, another pair of people. Strangely, we never saw them return the way they went in. Meanwhile, the ticket collection queue grew. Chairs were installed outside the bank. Two hours after I first arrived, the line outside was maybe 15-people long. With two people being processed every 30 minutes, that was a pretty long wait.
I asked a bank officer what the hold up was. His reply was almost identical to the one Tom received: "The network is slow. Everyone in China is trying to access it now!"
Figures. Finally, it was our turn. We entered the inner area only to see the six people who had gone in ahead of us. They appeared to be still waiting in line. The queue, it seems, had merely been transferred from outside to the slightly-more-comfortable inner area.
After some passport-photocopying, however, it was rather quickly our turn to get the tickets. They were printed out of a foot-long rectangular metal box with a Ticketmaster (they’re providing ticketing services to BOCOG) sticker on it. There appeared to be a slight delay as the bank officer entered the information into her computer (the program she was looking at didn’t look like a standard website). I signed the receipt, paid up, and all three flaming-red-colored tickets were finally mine.