It’s a question every sports-loving Indian wants an answer to. Where are the Commonwealth Games tickets? Why are hardly any available, even as athletes at some venues perform in front of nearly empty stands?
On Thursday, HT found at least 3,000 answers — from a kabaadiwala (junk dealer), who was casually walking out of a stadium with stacks of tickets in his sack.
The tickets, priced between R250 and R1,000, were, however, all marked ‘complimentary’. There were some tickets for the evening’s prime-time India vs Australia hockey game (which India later lost), for important athletic events and wrestling matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, all between the dates October 5 and 7. They had all been given away to the kabaadiwala to sell as waste paper.
Organising Committee (OC) sources said thousands more such tickets were lying at its office (HT has photos of them).
Earlier in the day, when HT visited the Karni Singh Shooting Range, with a seating capacity of 4,000, there weren’t even 250 spectators watching the events. The managers of the nearby Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd stall, which houses the nearest centralised ticket counter, said all tickets (priced R250) had been sold out for the entire duration of the competition.
A police officer at the Karni Range said only 151 spectators had come on the inaugural day of the shooting competition. “On Wednesday (when Gagan Narang and Abhinav Bindra were locked in a tussle for gold) the attendance was 214 and on Thursday, it was 241,” he said.
Many shooting enthusiasts who wanted to watch have revealed they went back disappointed, though wondering how there were no tickets when the stands were near-empty. Even the competition management has not been given its quota of tickets and passes.
Sources in the Organising Committee (OC) office said they had not printed sufficient tickets due to the heightened security in the Capital. Besides, the process of buying tickets is so tedious that it is keeping spectators away and forcing the OC to hold back tickets.
“Where in the world is one asked to fill up forms to buy tickets?” asked the frustrated father of a shooter. “Here, you are asked for your identity card, address and credentials. An undertaking is taken that you won’t carry firearms or go into the venue with a terrorist. This is ridiculous,” he said.
Strangely enough, given this attitude, the OC needs to sell tickets. “Ticketing is a big issue and the poor sale of tickets could jeopardised the CGOCs plan to garner money to repay its R 1600 crore loan from the Central Government,” said an OC official.
But till Thursday, the situation remained grim. Despite assurances that the OC would distribute free tickets to students and NGOs, several thousand complimentary tickets, printed after initial poor sales, were thrown in the trash.
Asked why these were printed at all, when OC head Suresh Kalmadi had specifically stated there would be no free tickets, OC secretary-general Lalit Bhanot stated: “At first, ticket sales were very slow, we had sold only about three lakh in total, so we printed complimentaries to distribute and fill up stadiums.
Then, after the opening ceremony, sales shot up to nine lakh and now, we are sold out for important games.”
“Some 75,000 complimentaries were also printed for sponsors. They might not have picked some of them. Every ticket is accounted for,” he said.
Whichever way you look at it then, there’s no explanation for either the empty stands or the mess that the ticketing is.