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Demand for Beijing Olympic Tickets Crashes System

Organizers of next year's Beijing Olympics have temporarily suspended ticket sales for the games after overwhelming demand caused the computerized ticketing system to crash. As Naomi Martig reports from VOA's Asia News Center in Hong Kong, the system fell apart shortly after opening.

The director of the Olympic Ticket Sales Center, Rung Jun, apologized for the breakdown.

Rung says the ticketing center underestimated the demand from the public.

This second phase of ticket sales was for residents of China only, on a first-come, first-served basis. In June, during the first round of sales, 1.6 million tickets were snapped up during a lottery call.

The Olympic Committee says that within an hour of sales beginning Wednesday, on-line requests soared to more than eight million. The number of telephone calls to the ticketing hotline exceeded 3.8 million.

Rung says the committee was forced to suspend ticket sales because the technical system was unable to perform the tasks needed. He says many applicants were unable to submit their applications.

The committee says only 9,000 out of the 1.8 million tickets on sale were sold before the suspension - mainly through the overwhelmed Web site, and outlets at the Bank of China. Olympic officials say people began lining up at bank branches as early as Monday.

China eventually plans to sell a total of seven million tickets for the Games. The organizing committee says it will announce on November 5 when ticket sales will resume.

Wednesday's problems were a rare stumble for the Beijing Olympic Committee. Except for serious concerns about the Chinese capital's notorious air pollution, preparations have gone smoothly, with the organizers earning praise from the International Olympic Committee.