Counting down to the Olympics and working out major ticket headaches

The system for ordering, paying for, and issuing Beijing Olympic tickets has had many kinks, the latest of which may be the middle name question.

The system for ordering, paying for, and issuing Beijing Olympic tickets has had many kinks, the latest of which may be the middle name question.

A Wall Street Journal blog reports that people found a Bank of China branch unwilling to issue tickets to some foreigners because the registered name lacked the middle name present on the required passport. Without an exact match, you're nearly out of luck. Just like getting on a plane in China.

The iconic Olympic sites in Beijing Graham Webster

Or that's what the report says. It's a blog post based on a single anecdote from an anonymous foreign friend in a foreigner-rich neighborhood in Beijing who ended up arguing for two hours and is still a little paperwork away from getting the tickets. The post also contains a claim that Monday was the first day that tickets ordered online could be picked up, which does not seem to be true based on anecdotes I've heard from other foreign friends, whom I will keep anonymous.

Either way the issuance of tickets has been quite a trial for some. At least a few friends who live in Beijing found that their U.S. bank cards flagged the purchase when they charged Olympic tickets, thereby canceling the transaction and, you would think, nullifying the tickets. That would be fine if it weren't unusually hard to get tickets in the first place.

People waited online in virtual queues for ticket orders to be issued just after individual batches became available. If you were lucky enough to get a ticket, you would hope Visa, one of the Olympics' primary sponsors ("but they don't take... " well you know the rest), would be more inclined to accommodate unusual transactions in the form of tickets to the Games.

But after all, the oddest story I have heard is that one person went in to collect the tickets anyway, despite the bank having canceled payment. And, with no apparent dispute over middle names, the tickets were issued. It's just that no one ever paid for them. Oops.

The Journal post I am sure is based on a real incident, but the mistake is in thinking any individual experience is generalizable. These things just aren't going consistently.

About the author

    Formerly a journalist and consultant in Beijing, Graham Webster is a graduate student studying East Asia at Harvard University. At Sinobyte, he follows the effects of technology on Chinese politics, the environment, and global affairs. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. Disclosure.


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