BEIJING DISPATCH: Raids round up scalped Olympic tickets

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We awoke to cloudy skies and warm, but not stifling, weather.  A few drops of rain fell in the morning that cleared the skies. Before the evening track and field session, we took a few hours to tour the Summer Palace, a sprawling landscaped park on the edge of Beijing.

While walking the grounds, we spotted Kristen Heaston (Pleasant Hills, CA), a two time Olympian (’04, ’08) in the shot put. She finished her competition after the first round.  Heaston is a three time USA Outdoor Champion and two time runner-up in the Olympic Trials (‘04, ’08).  Heaston was walking around the park with her teammates and mother.

Acquiring Olympic tickets remains a challenge.  However, both locals and tourists are figuring out how to get into the events. Although there is a prohibition against “scalping”, every day hundreds of individuals can be seen selling tickets immediately outside the Olympic Green area in full view of the security forces and Beijing police. 

On Friday, the Beijing police rounded up and detained 110 foreign and Chinese ticket scalpers.  In a series of raids across the city approximately 340 tickets were confiscated and all of the suspects were taken to local police stations for questioning. 

Under Chinese law, an individual caught scalping tickets can be held up to 15 days in jail.  The police have placed one poster in English at the Olympic Green area warning sellers and buyers of the potential consequences of such purchases. Sellers were leaning against the poster  It is not clear if the police are trying to control or stop such sales, but obviously the trading and selling process will continue.  Based on Friday’s arrests there is always the threat of being detained by the police if you are caught negotiating for tickets.

We anticipate long lines negotiating through the lengthy security system will continue to impede on -time arrival into the Bird’s Nest National Stadium.  We spent one hour in long lines on the first day of athletics (track and field) in high humidity, meandering through security. Everyone was frustrated with the process.  During the second day the security system seemed more efficient. 

Once we arrived at the stadium we were told there are only two elevators accessible for the public for the entire 91,000 capacity stadium.  We are told that the elevators are limited to pregnant women and the “elderly.” He looked at me and said that I qualified! (I am 66 years old).

None of the stadium staff seemed to know the location of the two elevators.  We were required to climb 200 steep steps to arrive at our seats.  Many of the seats in the top levels of the stadium have limited views of the huge video monitors.  You have to rely upon these monitors because there are no published programs and no heat sheets are available at the venue.  We have been lucky to have access to daily heat sheets provided by our tour group. 

Although there are some design problems, the stadium is a gorgeous architectural complex.  In the evening, when the stadium and adjacent venues (water cube) are illuminated, the beauty is breathtaking.  The “water cube” shines brilliantly with multi-colored lights.  Laser beams shoot in the sky above, emulating the aurora borealis (northern lights).  However, we were interested and surprised to spot some items within venues that remain incomplete, e.g. exposed wiring, equipment cables dangling behind some chairs, and scrap metal that was not removed.  Because most of the stadium is covered only the seats in the lower VIP sections have a view of the Olympic Torch.  The Chinese announced that the venues were fully completed two years ago. Certainly on a quick glance the venues are beautiful.  However, on closer inspection, many details have been overlooked.

Once the events started last night, we were thrilled with an electrifying performance in the Men’s 100 meters. We witnessed track and field history when Jamaica’s Usain Bolt shattered the Men’s 100 meter world record in 9.69 seconds, breaking his own world record.  Amazingly, Bolt’s time could have been faster had he not dropped his arms and started celebrating 10 meters from the finish.  Walter Dix grabbed Bronze place finish with a personal best of 9.91.
 
Hyleas Fountain was in first place in the Heptathlon at various times but she struggled in the long jump and shot put.  On day two of her competition Fountain was able to complete a personal best in the 800 meter (third place) allowing her to secure a Bronze with 6619 points. She became the first American woman to medal in the Heptathlon since Jackie Joyner-Kersee won in Barcelona in 1992.

This evening we are looking forward to another exciting evening in track and field at the Bird’s Nest National Stadium.  Oregon athletes will be featured with Galen Rupp (University of Oregon) in the 10,000 meter run and Jesse Williams (Eugene) in the High Jump.

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