Etiquette rules don't stop unruly crowds

BEIJING — When in doubt, don’t ask. That’s the etiquette message being transmitted to the people of Beijing ahead of the Olympics’ commencement on Aug. 8 — sex, religion, age and wages are all taboo when it comes to dealing with foreign tourists.

The propaganda department of downtown Dongcheng district has issued a list of “eight don’t asks” as a guide for locals about how to show proper hospitality.

But the bulletins weren’t enough to stop crowds from fighting to get the last Olympic Games tickets and to adhere to a line.

So high was the demand that more than 10,000 people lined up outside the Olympic Sports Center, near the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium, on Thursday, according to police.

By the time the tickets went on sale Friday morning, the line had stretched right around the nearby parking lot. The number of people in line rose to almost 50,000, and police were forced to send in reinforcements. Scuffles broke out between police and people in the line, who chanted insults.

Tickets for the games are in big demand. There is a flourishing black market, with massive profits to be made, even though scalping has been outlawed. Police have arrested 60 scalpers over the past two months.

Altogether, there were 7 million tickets on sale for the Games, with three-quarters of them going to China’s vast domestic audience and the rest made available overseas through each country’s National Olympic Committee.

Ticket sales will raise $140 million for the organizing committee.

After the melee, Games organizers made “appropriate adjustments” to the sales schedule to cut waiting time.

As for the etiquette lessons, taxi drivers have been told to change their shirts regularly and say “thank you” and “bye-bye.” They’ve also been told not to sleep in their cabs.

Volunteers have given lessons in cheerleading, how to cross the road in Beijing and how to do sign language.

The poster on neighborhood bulletin boards also lists the eight questions residents shouldn’t ask: “Don’t ask about income or expenses, don’t ask about age, don’t ask about love life or marriage, don’t ask about health, don’t ask about someone’s home or address, don’t ask about personal experience, don’t ask about religion or politics, don’t ask what someone does.”

There have been teething troubles in the campaigns. In May, Beijing organizers had to apologize for a training manual issued to thousands of Olympic and Paralympic volunteers following complaints about inappropriate language used to describe disabled athletes.

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