Thursday, August 07, 2008

More Olympic ticket hell

As a quick postscript to my last rant, I feel I should mention the ordeal of my friend Leah.

She was pretty pleased to have been allocated some tickets in the first round lottery - for women's volleyball, one of the more popular events, and a sport she is actually interested in.

Alas, when the time came to pick up the tickets from a branch office of the Bank of China, she couldn't prove who she was. The online registration form had only asked for surname and first name, but then a passport was required as proof of ID - and passports, of course, include those confusing middle names (foreign names, in general, are terminally confusing to the Chinese: my bank regularly refuses to accept transfer payments from my various employers because their staff simply don't recognise my name - even if it's been written in exactly the same format it appears on my bank book - and they can't possibly process a payment on the basis of the account number alone, oh no).

This was quite a common problem (the conspiracy theorist in me wonders if it wasn't another element of the 'master plan' to try to prevent any foreigners attending the Games). Allegedly, it was somehow 'fixed' later on - but not in time for Leah. She was getting pissed off with China for a number of reasons, and decided to go back home to the States a couple of months early.

She e-mailed BOCOG to ask if she could get the tickets mailed to her. Eventually they responded in the affirmative, but said she'd have to send them a self-addressed registered mail envelope. She did so. They never acknowledged receipt of it. She sent a number of follow-up e-mails. No reply.

Just last week, she finally heard back from them again. It wasn't clear what had happened to her SAE, but obviously it was now too late to use that anyway. She asked, was it possible to nominate a proxy to collect the tickets for her, could she assign them to me? Er, yes, they reluctantly conceded: that was possible. I gave her my passport details for ID (including my top secret, highly embarrassing middle name). And she already had a ticket allocation reference number, right. What more would I need? Oh, apparently I'd need to present her passport.

Yeah, right.

So, anyway, BOCOG acknowledges that they failed to hand over tickets to someone they had been properly allocated to, and that it was their foul-up. They further failed to deliver the tickets overseas by post, as they had promised to do. And they made it utterly fucking impossible to assign the tickets to anyone else. Would they at least be able to give her a refund? NO.

And what happens to those tickets now? Are they going to sell them again?

If you're in Beijing over the next few weeks - please, please, please, go up to any Olympic official you see (particularly any of the BOCOG or IOC bigwigs) and ask: "Where are Leah's tickets?"


argonox said...
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argonox said...

That's mostly right. I never got advance confirmation from BOCOG that they would mail me the tickets, though-- this was my idea, since my failed ticket pick-up attempt happened on the morning of the day of my departure, and I had to make a trip to the P.O. anyway. (On a side note, the post office refused to allow me to ship my salad spinner back to the States. Mind you, they had no idea what it WAS, but after a small team of postal workers puzzled over it for a few minutes, it was deemed contraband. Unmailable.) But I went ahead and invested 6 kuai in an envelope and a stamp, thinking that this would be the best way to go about things with the tickets. I mailed in the SASE together with my correction form, and then followed up by email at least five times. No response, no response, no response... Only when I asked about designating a pick-up person and was eventually like, "look, you bunch of jerks, you've made the retrieval of my tickets totally impossible, the least you could do is refund my money," and again reiterated how I had sent in a SASE, did they respond. I quote: "Besides, the BOCOG (Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games) does NOT provide ticket delivery service to the public ever."

So that was China's final one-finger salute to yours truly.

Froog said...

I thought I was going to be pulling for the home side in this (I have done in most sporting competitions since I moved here), but.... I was surprised by a thrill of.... er, deserved comeuppance, I suppose, when the USA beat China in the opening match of the women's volleyball last night.

I have no great attachment to the American team, or to any national team (Christ, I could care less how the British team is getting along); but I do find myself - unexpectedly, shockingly - relishing every little setback for China.

It's really not been a great success for the Chinese government as a "hearts & minds" exercise, this Olympics. Well, certainly not for us poor resident expats, anyway.

argonox said...

I wish I could have been there to see that match!

I actually find myself doing something similar :( And when the Chinese do win medals, I think, "well, yes, athletes from totalitarian regimes do know how to win, don't they..." Shameful!

I guess I feel pretty chewed up and spat out by China right now, and it's hard for me to return to my earlier state of sympathetic naivete. Maybe some day...

Froog said...

Yes, yes, it will pass.

I do find that if I'm around ordinary Chinese people - whether friends, acquaintances, or total strangers - who are enjoying a Chinese win, I'm quite happy for them (just as I was for various Czechs, Russians, and Spaniards that I encountered while watching the European football championships a couple of months back). But if I'm watching in isolation, I find myself muttering, "Jia you, whoevever-the-other-team-is!"