Tuesday, February 22, 2011

An Entire Stadium Disappears

Let me start by saying: I'm not especially interested in cricket, and will probably heave a sigh of relief once the World Cup and the IPL are done with. What interest I do have is because of my wife, who follows it like a true fan. We even went to Chinnaswamy Stadium for a couple of the practice matches there before the World Cup started proper.

And so we were happy when we found that an important match, India Vs. England, was being shifted from Kolkata to Bengaluru. Immediately the missus wanted to be try and get tickets. Knowing that over 50% of the city would want to attend (and the other half would be dragged there by their spouses), I looked around the net for the sales venues so we could be there on the first day. This was about two weeks ago, and the websites, and the news outlets, and signs at the stadium itself, all said that the tickets would be on sale starting from the 21st of February. Just 6 days before the match itself? Weird, but... OK, we'll go then.

A week after that, around Valentine's Day, there's this strategically inserted news item that talks of how the folks who bought tickets in Kolkata for the match originally are getting their corresponding tickets for Bengaluru. Wait, what? Are they all going to fly down all the way to see the match? At the most, this would be 5 to 10% of the total ticket holders.

A couple of days after that, on steady enquiries everywhere, it seemed like Planet M, Reebok (Official Partners Of The World Cup apparently) will sell the tickets offline, while Kyazoonga will sell the tickets online.

On the 20th, when we called up Planet M to confirm whether they're selling tickets, they backed out - they weren't going to be selling them any more. Oh well. On the night of the 20th, I stayed awake, hoping that "21st" would be taken literally and I would be able to buy the tickets online after midnight. No such luck - in fact the site got overwhelmed by the masses of people like me who had also hoped the same, and it got knocked offline for most of the day after.

Today (the 22nd), two things happened. There was a news story about Kyazoonga, which apologized for going under, and also mentioned that it had only 4,500 tickets for the finals anyway. There was no mention of how many tickets it had for the Bengaluru match - it would have to be less than the Finals, of course, so we can set 4,500 as the upper limit.

The other thing that happened was that we got a call from Reebok (Official Partners Of The World Cup), telling us that since we're earlier registered as being interested in the tickets, it was their duty to inform us that Reebok would not be selling the tickets for the match. The only offline place to get the tickets now was the stadium itself, and that too would probably begin only from the 24th, or thereabouts. As it was, "there were very few tickets left", and that was why Reebok outlets were not getting tickets to sell.

Recap: Online tickets are a very small number. Almost every outlet that was due to sell the offline tickets won't be doing so. And since there's an unknown but apparently significant number of people flying down from Kolkata, no one knows exactly how many tickets were supposed to be there. But "There are very few tickets left".

WHERE is this stadiums-worth of tickets going, then? The only other news story about this match was about MPs and corporators armtwisting the stadium officials into giving them large numbers of tickets. Could that be it? When we'd gone to the stadium for the practice matches, we were lucky to get tickets - apparently they'd all been bought by black marketers who were selling the same tickets for double the prices. Could it be the same back-office arrangements being made on the sly for the upcoming match?

Whatever - the missus threw up her hands in disgust and decided that it was not worth it. It was never going to be a fair fight/queue/arrangement, and any and everyone who could use his jugaad to get the tickets would be doing it anyway. So now we're watching the match on TV. Hope the cable guy doesn't decide to charge us extra for it.

The whole thing just makes me feel helpless. Whether it's buying a ticket, a house, land, food, phone - the moment any government body touches it, it's like the kiss of death for fairness. All I'm doing is sitting here angrily typing into a computer, I know, but no one else cares, in any case. They're too busy finding contacts to get their work done.