For the purposes of the Olympics, my name is …

[June 18 Update … at end of post.]

[and … June 20 Update … at end of post.]

Back in mid-May I joined millions of other China-based Olympic fans in a mad dash to order tickets on a Ticketmaster-designed system that – despite what the authorities say – wasn’t working properly. At least at first. Anyway, I eventually managed to order the tickets.

But the trouble wasn’t over, yet.

Unlike, say, in the United States, ordered, paid-for tickets don’t just show up in your mail. No, instead, China’s Olympic authorities, in their infinite wisdom, require purchasers to travel down to a designated Bank of China branch, where they much show a government-issued ID – a passport, if your’re a foreigner – to a teller, who then prints the tickets.

Fine. So, in mid-May, I wander down to the Bank of China branch, show them my passport, and wait while the teller consults with his manager (employee #37 – I remember). Then he comes back and says that – “Sorry, your passport name does not match the name in the system.” I point out to him, politely, that the name does match. And then he correctly points out that – “Sorry, but your middle name is on the passport but not on the ticket form.” To which I correctly point out – “Sorry, but the ticket form doesn’t include a space for my middle name.”

Thus ensued a discussion, that soon became an argument, that soon involved raised voices – and which finally resolved with me agreeing to certify, in writing, on the ticket acknowledgment form, that my middle name is what my passport says that it is.

Now, this happened in mid-May, and I was intending to blog about it, but after further consideration (including consideration of the temper tantrum that I threw in the bank lobby), I decided not to run the post. More likely than not, I thought, this middle-name tyranny was just the work of a lone, renegade idiot (and the idiot’s supervisor, employee #37) at the particular Bank of China branch that I was unlucky enough to visit.

Oh, how wrong I was! Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal’s China Journal ran a short piece on a rash of middle-name ticket tyranny in Beijing (h/t danwei):

Today was the first day that Olympics tickets booked online were available for pickup from the Bank of China branches that are handling ticket sales and distribution. But as has happened before with the Olympic ticketing process, there was a small complication. The online application forms requested only first and last names. But when foreigners showed up to claim their tickets, using passports for identification, bank staff refused to hand over tickets to people whose passports also included a middle name.

This is an accurate description but for two errors. First, yesterday was NOT the first day that you could pick-up online orders. That date was in mid-May, and this problem has been ongoing since then. And second, the middle-name problem is not a “small complication.” When I was finally given my tickets, I was warned that I might be denied entry to the Games on the basis of my middle name. I’ve since contacted the geniuses at Ticketmaster about this issue, but they’ve yet to respond.

[UPDATE 6/18: The WSJ has since corrected their entry to note that the new round of “middle name” errors was being inflicted upon the Phase 1 and Phase 2 ticket buyers, who are only now eligible to pick up their tickets (purchased last year). I was in the Phase 3 group, and thus eligible to pick up the tickets beginning in mid-May.]

[UPDATE 6/20: Sky Canaves of the increasingly great WSJ China Journal blog reached Ticketmaster, which tole her that it began discussing – and resolving – the issue on Monday:

Curt Logan, senior vice president and general manager for the Chinese operations of Ticketmaster which runs the online Olympic ticketing system in partnership with Bocog, said that the company began discussing the middle name issue with Bocog on Monday after learning of the complications. He said that Bank of China branches distributing the tickets have been told not to focus on middle names so much. “The key will be that the ID numbers match, with names being compared using a little common sense,” he said.]


  1. First, your handwriting brings shame to bloggers everywhere. Second, I laughed out loud while reading this. Why didn’t you run it in May? This is real news. And better yet you corrected the WSJ.

  2. it’s happened to me with airplane tickets. i used an explanation involving sun zhongshan and his other names to explain the phenomenom of middle names to the check-in people.

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