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Tickets sales for next year's Olympic Games in Beijing were suspended for a week on Tuesday after the ticketing system crashed under the weight of Chinese sport fans looking to snap up tickets for the eagerly-anticipated event.

A lottery in June for the first round of 1.6 million tickets went smoothly enough. But the offer of 1.8 million tickets on a first-come, first-served basis resulted in (arguably predictable) chaos. Customers eager to get their hands on tickets jammed phone lines with an estimated two million calls and queued around the block at banks.

Meanwhile, the ticketing website was flooded with an estimated 200,000 ticket requests a minute, an onslaught of interest that brought the system to its knees. Only an estimated 9,000 tickets were sold in the first two hours, the BBC reports.

The organising committee has apologised for problems caused after the ticketing centre underestimated demand. Tickets sales were suspended until Monday to allow time for a more robust ticketing system to be put in place.

China plans to sell seven million tickets for the Olympics over three phases with three-quarters of tickets going to local residents.

Servicing demand for popular events where available tickets are scare and demand is high is never easy. Nonetheless, Beijing authorities ought to have expected trouble bearing in mind the problems organisers of the football World Cup and Glastonbury have repeatedly hit in the past. Offering tickets by lottery works well enough, but once sales open up to a first-come, first-served basis chaos regularly ensues. ®

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