Beijing suspends sale of Olympics tickets after demand crashes computers


By SCOTT McDONALD, AP

BEIJING — Ticket sales for the Beijing Olympics have been suspended after overwhelming demand crashed the computer ticketing system, the organizers of next summer’s Games said Wednesday.

After the tickets went on sale in China on a first-come, first-served basis Tuesday, the overload forced organizers to put a note on the online ticketing Web site saying the system was busy.

The telephone ticket hot line rang busy all day.

“Demand was much higher than the ticket center estimated and flaws existed in preparation work that caused inconveniences for applicants,” the Beijing Olympics organizing committee, or BOCOG, said in a statement.

It said the organizers had decided to “temporarily halt domestic ticket sales to improve the technical plan and will announce new ticketing information on Nov. 5.”

Calls to BOCOG were not answered. An official who would not give his name returned a call Wednesday but only to say the statement had been posted on the Web site.

“We sincerely apologize to the public,” it said.

Other than worries about Beijing’s notoriously bad air pollution, preparations so far for the Olympics that start on Aug. 8 have gone well, with the city earning high praise from the International Olympic Committee for its venues.

A series of test events over the last several months have also been praised by athletes.

It was not clear how many tickets were successfully purchased before the system crashed Tuesday, when 1.85 million tickets became available. BOCOG said 9,000 were sold after two hours, almost all of them through the ticketing Web site and in person at Bank of China branches.

The ticketing Web site was visited 8 million times in the first hour of the sale, receiving more than 200,000 ticket requests per second. More than 2 million people called the telephone hot line in the first hour, BOCOG said Tuesday.

Tickets that went on sale were for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as all sporting events. About 2.2 million tickets became available on April 15, but only for those whose names were picked in a lottery.

More than 7 million tickets will be sold for the Beijing Olympics, to Chinese as well as visitors from elsewhere.