This time around, Chinese Olympic officials made certain that there would be no embarrassing meltdown of its ticketing systems for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, which are scheduled to commence in August.
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On Monday, May 5th, at 9 a.m. local time, the “Phase 3” allotment of tickets went on sale to the Chinese public at Bank of China ticket outlets or by logging onto the Olympics’ ticketing website. Olympic officials made 1.38 million tickets available on Monday, and some events sold out within 30 minutes. (All told, nearly 7 million tickets are going to be offered for the games.)
Whether it was all part of the phased approach to ticket sales or it was to ensure that a collapse of the online ticketing system would not repeat itself, Chinese Olympic officials noted at an April press conference that “the number of the ticket outlets during this stage will be fewer than that offered during the previous two phases.”
News agencies reported that on Monday the website bended, but it did not break under the crushing weight of 27 million hits per hour at peak times. Sportbusiness.com stated that “while people were able to log on to the website and select tickets fairly easily, they could not reach the final payment page, receiving instead a message reading: ‘The system is under maintenance. Please visit the page later.'” In addition, the article noted that the ticketing website kept directing users back to the login page, and eventually showed a message apologizing for not being able to process the purchase.
“The Web site may become a little bit slow at peak hours, but it’s still normal and there’s no problem,” Zhu Yan, director of the Beijing ticketing center, stated in an Associated Press news report.
“We have made sufficient preparation this time including the tests of our network, our credit card operation and our system for the acceptance of purchase applications,” said Xu Zheng, Olympic affairs director for the Bank of China, in the news report. “The preparation work was done in a very careful way because we had lessons to learn in last year’s experience.”
That “last year’s experience,” when the ticketing system crashed and online sales had to be shut down, was a black eye for Chinese Olympic officials who had been promising the world “high-tech games.” A lottery system had to be quickly implemented, and according to news reports, Chinese Olympic officials publicly sacked the director of ticketing.
The Chinese officials weren’t the only ones who had problems with their online ticketing systems last fall. The Colorado Rockies‘ first trip to baseball’s World Series started off on a sour note. When its vendor’s servers crashed just days before the World Series was to start, Rockies fans couldn’t purchase tickets for the home games. (See “IT Lessons from Colorado Rockies’ System Crash” for more on redundant systems and contingency planning.)
As of May 7th, Olympic officials announced that the third-round sale of domestic Olympic tickets for Beijing venues was sold out. Good seats to the soccer tournament in Shanghai as well as tickets for equestrian competitions in Hong Kong are still available.