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Water Cube draws huge crowds
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08:58, February 01, 2008

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It was still an hour before opening time, but that did not stop a large crowd from braving Beijing's freezing temperatures for a glimpse inside one of the city's top Olympic showpieces.

Families, couples and tourists huddled up yesterday afternoon outside the two ticket offices at the Water Cube, hoping to be among the first members of the public to see inside the venue for Olympic watersports.

First in line was a middle-aged woman from Gansu province, who was spending Spring Festival in the capital.

"I've been here for an hour, since 3:30 pm. I just want a ticket for myself. I want to go in there and see for myself," Hua Lijun said.

The ticket offices finally opened and minutes later, a beaming Hua held the ticket and fought her way through an envious crowd.

The opening treat at the Water Cube, officially known as the National Aquatics Center, was the preliminary rounds of the "Good Luck Beijing Swimming China Open" meet held last evening.

Many saw the cheapest tickets - 50 yuan ($7) - as a real steal to get a taste of the bubble-like padding on the walls and ceiling, made of ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene plastic pillows, for which the Cube is now famous.

The enthusiasm for yesterday's event comes amid a larger feeling of anticipation as the Olympic Games near.

The online ticketing system buckled under the pressure in October and sales had to be suspended due to the overwhelming number of applications.

Those who failed to get their hands on tickets through a lottery last year have had to settle for a tour during trial events.

The Bird's Nest, or National Stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, is scheduled to open its doors next month.

All 26,000 tickets to the opening ceremony were snapped up in the first phase of ticket sales last summer.

Ticketing officials said demand remains very high, and is centered on key events.

As expected, not everyone who stood in line was as lucky as Hua.

Wang Shujuan said she left her home in east Beijing at 9am yesterday for the morning phase of ticket sales for the Water Cube.

She took the subway, the bus and walked some distance before arriving at the swimming venue at 1 pm, only to find the ticket office closed for six hours before opening again in the evening.

"No one told us the office would be closed during the day," the frustrated 63-year-old said.

More than 200 tickets were sold in two hours yesterday morning, Wang Hongjian, a volunteer on morning shift at the ticket office, said.

Shen Ming, another member of the ticket sales team, said: "This is one of the hottest events so far."

Source: China Daily

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