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Tempers flare as last tickets for Olympics go on sale

July 26, 2008|From the Associated Press

BEIJING — A crowd of 30,000 people, baking in the heat and waiting for up to two days, swarmed a ticketing center Friday as the final batch of Olympic tickets went on sale. Police shoved and kicked them and used metal barricades to prevent a stampede.

The Aug. 8-24 Games are the first Olympics expected to sell out, and some fans spent the night on thin bamboo mats and newspapers for a chance to buy tickets that went on sale in different parts of the city.

At the main ticket office not far from the National Stadium, tempers flared as sticky bodies pressed against one another in the surging crowd before sales began at 9 a.m. Police yanked more than half a dozen unruly fans from the throng, kicking one who fell as he was being led away and dragging another by his hair.

Hundreds of police and paramilitary troops tried to control the crowd, with lines of officers throwing their weight into hastily erected metal barricades to hold back the crush. Fans were allowed to pass through the police barricade in groups of 25 to 50, streaming toward the two-dozen-plus ticket windows.

Scuffles broke out as officials opened additional windows at the last minute.

"People got hurt around me. They fell and injured their knees and elbows. A barricade was bent out of shape by the crowd," said Wang Zhenqiang, a businessman from the eastern province of Shandong.

Wang and his friend Ji Liqiang ended up with tickets to synchronized swimming instead of the diving competition, in which China is a gold-medal favorite.

Temperatures topped 93 degrees on Friday.

Thousands also waited in west Beijing for 20,000 tickets for basketball. An additional 570,000 tickets went on sale for preliminary-round soccer matches in the cities of Tianjin, Shanghai, Shenyang and Qinhuangdao.

There were no reports of major problems at the other sites.

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