About BTiell Sports Reports

Dr. Bonnie Tiell writes a monthly column for the Tiffin Advertiser Tribune Sports Department (http://www.advertiser-tribune.com/). This blog archives each column and dates back to the 2008 Olympic Academic Experience in Beijing, China. Check out the Blog Archives to read more. Check out info about the TU Olympic Academic Experience at http://www.tuolympics.blogspot.com/ and contact Dr. Tiell at btiell@tiffin.edu

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Aug 7, 2008 TU arrives in Beijing with high hopes, but no tickets

Aboard the flight from Toronto to Beijing were the Cuban men's volleyball team, a Cuban television crew, the Canadian Olympic Committee, members of the International Federation of Soccer, a handful of Brazilian athletes and a team wearing jackets with "Italia" Basketball Olympic insignias. The colorful passenger list also included three amigos sporting a traditional Mexican flag as a cape and oversize Sombreros. Yes, the Olympics are finally here!
Arriving in Beijing a few days before the Games, the Tiffin University Olympic Academic delegation was somewhat exhausted but still wide eyed in amazement at how graciously China has opened its arms to international visitors. A saturated Olympic marketing campaign revealed vibrant colors, sponsor logos, smiling volunteers and English interpretations throughout the massive airport and the bright city. But despite all the excitement, there is still a major concern - sold out tickets.

What do you do when you plan a trip to the Beijing Olympics 18 months in advance and days prior to your departure you learn event tickets are completely sold out? My husband and friends sensed the subtle panic in my pre-departure demeanor as I fielded numerous calls and emails from students concerned they would be so close, yet so far from actual Olympic competition.

"Not to worry" was the message from our Tiffin friend Fred Zoeller and his lawyer companion from Shanghai (Joe) who both refused to pay top dollar on the net for sold-out tickets.
In the meantime, a student from Nebraska had consulted with her lawyer to ascertain whether she could recuperate any of the program fees because of the sell-out. Thankfully, TU's legal counsel had done well in preparing the language in our contracts noting the burden of securing event tickets was solely on the participant.

Our host informed us that 44 individuals faced criminal charges (typically 15 days) for attempting to profit from ticket sales within 24 hours of the rioting and eventual sell-out. Enforcement efforts appear to be a farce since thousands upon thousands of tickets still are available (at exorbitant prices) on the Internet and streets. The concern now is for the counterfeit tickets prompting signage posted on the subway system warning of the differences between authentic and counterfeit tickets. Another concern is the police who are going undercover attempting to catch would-be scalpers.

Atlanta, Sydney, Athens - tickets were readily available on site for many, many events. In Beijing, the organizers calculated capacities, even gave away tickets to school children to avoid the shame of empty seats and fed into an enthusiastic nation of over a billion people, many who were educated and eager to capitalize on the basic laws of supply and demand. Yes, China is a modern country who outsmarted all those who thought Olympic tickets -at least those to the less popular events like kayaking and water polo - would be accessible for purchase on-site.

Our group initially was greeted by three guides (equipped with a very visible Tiffin sign) who brought us to a lecture room to meet the Head Master for the Asia-Pacific Experimental School of Beijing Normal University. One guide carefully translated as the Head Master meticulously described the ticket distribution system that has lead to the sold-out Olympic Games. Next were strict warnings against scalping tickets followed by a suggestion to give up on anticipation of getting anywhere near an Olympic event because of the roadblocks and security.

The Head Master reviewed their itinerary for our pleasure which included everything scenic but an Olympic event. We were warned it would even be too difficult to find a spot to watch the free road cycling event which would stream for miles through the center of the city. The deliberate messages were countered by a genuine warm appreciation for our company and the promise to accommodate our needs as their guests. Unfortunately, it sure didn't produce much hopes of anyone in the TU group finding any event tickets.


Since the news of the sell-out, we had been counting on Chinese citizens unable to claim top dollar on less popular events to become eager to unload inventory at a reasonable cost to avoid losing their investment. We have been informed that those sentiments are shared by thousands of family and friends of Olympic athletes, random spectators and unlucky Chinese people who are in the same predicament without a golden ticket. A Canadian couple we met on our flight shared the same hope of finding unwanted event tickets. But soon they revealed their fortune in holding four precious $600 tickets to the opening ceremonies Friday.
Many of our connections from our USOC contact to the LeBron James Marketing Company have tried unsuccessfully to help us find tickets. At this point, I believe the students are willing to watch the blazing accuracy of an archery completion just so they can say they were at an actual Olympic event!

Even our contact with Coca Cola Olympic Sponsorships was compassionate about our ticket dilemma and offered access to a Coke attraction at Chaoyang Park as a consolation.
Another option is to join Chanel, a University of Tennessee graduate student, who has an invitation to the top floor of a snazzy Beijing hotel for a reception in honor of the 10 or more Princeton University (her alma mater) Olympians. No doubt, there are plenty of opportunities to feel a part of the majesty and significance of the 2008 Beijing games, even without a ticket in hand. We still have hope of an amazing Olympics experience in this vivacious city now populated with so many international cultures.

Beijing's magic

Considering their athletes were exiled from Olympic action from 1952-1984, Communist China now reigns supreme as host of a three-week sport party. Boy, are they ready.
Buildings are magnificent, most streets are clean, parks appear beautiful, the Cabbies aren't spitting, and the smiles are everywhere. Hundreds of thousands of flowers and trees have been planted recently. Even more impressive than the Chinese smiles are those by the athletes, media and spectators from all over the globe. USA, Argentina, Pakistan, Australia, Chile, Japan - everywhere you go in Beijing is a spectacle of international cultures focused on Olympic sport competition.

Rain is a slight possibility at the Opening Ceremonies, but regardless of the weather or the red tape amidst heightened security, the magic of Beijing and the Olympics is intoxicating. Blue skies are hovering over the city of exotic temples and palaces. Locals noted that weather specialists blasted clouds with silver-iodide artillery shells to help produce earlier rains to wash out part of the smog problem. Our hosts noted the changes as very dramatic.

Stay Tuned

On our first evening in Beijing, our gracious hosts treated us to a festival of food featuring Peking duck and over 20 or 30 other traditional Chinese dishes at the downtown brilliant Xi She restaurant. Calvert freshmen Kimmy Tiell did try the Duck Foot Soup at our welcome feast, but she is looking forward to finding the Old Beijing Noodle King Factory near the Temple of Heaven if she runs out of her stash of Ramen noodles. The Olympic Village looks pretty good, too, on the menu list since we read the US shipped in over 25,000 lbs of Tyson foods. A number of travel books and cable shows have shared English versions of popular local dishes such as "Donkey with Brain Explosions" and "Chicken without Sexual Life" which we plan to avoid like the plague.
I'm looking forward to using my Chinese-U.S. currency cheat sheet (recommended by DeAnna and Darryl King) at some of the market places. First and foremost, however, is the anticipation of finding authentic tickets to any Olympic Event.

Shanghai lawyer Joe and Fred Zoeller recommended taping the Games to watch back in the states. Their advice is to just relish this once-in-a-life-time opportunity to be part of the Beijing Olympic experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Hey, maybe George Bush will give up a few of his tickets during his four-day Beijing visit! Stay tuned to find out more about that security nightmare and whether we're able to get a hold of a scarce Olympic event ticket. There's more to the story of Tiffin University's adventures in Beijing - with or without tickets.

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