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Beijing 2008 Olympic Tickets Go on Sale

Tickets for the Beijing 2008 Olympics went on sale today to Chinese citizens at prices ranging from $4 to $650, with features to prevent fraud and ticket touting. Beijing's Olympic Committee officials say the price range means the majority of Chinese can afford to attend the games. Daniel Schearf reports from Beijing.

The Beijing Olympic Committee on Sunday announced more than seven million tickets are on sale for the 2008 games. The tickets will be offered in three phases, the first starting today.

Tickets can be purchased online or over the phone with a credit card and, in China, at Bank of China branches. Each ticket will have a digital chip that identifies the purchaser to prevent re-selling the much sought after tickets and to help identify counterfeits.

Officials said block ticket sales would be limited to corporate sponsors and youth groups while individuals could purchase only one ticket each for lead events, such as the opening ceremony, and only a few for less popular events.

Wang Wei, the executive vice president of the Beijing Olympic Committee, told journalists in a live broadcast Sunday that the system would ensure fair distribution.

"[We will] respect international practice and in line with Olympic operation standards and China's situation, have fair and just, open and transparent ticket sales," said Wang.

Concerns had been raised that ordinary Chinese would not have access to or be able to afford the Olympics. Most Chinese live in the countryside where average annual incomes are around $463, less than a third of what city dwellers earn.

Wang says the range of ticket prices is reasonable and acceptable for the majority of Chinese.

"The biggest challenge is satisfying the vast public's desire to attend the Olympics," he added. "This is the Beijing Olympic Committee's ticket servicing principle and objective."

Olympic Committee officials say 75 percent of tickets will be set aside for Chinese sports fans and 25 percent for other nationalities. If an event were over-booked, random computerized booking would allocate tickets.

Distribution of tickets in countries outside China is the responsibility of National Olympics Committees.

Organizers are expecting to earn about $140 million from ticket sales, a fraction of the billions of dollars being spent by Beijing on hosting the Games.