In an unprecedented effort to increase security at this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing, tickets for the opening and closing night ceremonies are being embedded with microchips containing the ticket holder’s photo, passport information, address, e-mail and telephone numbers, according to officials.
Organizers hope the increased surveillance will deter dangerous or embarrassing situations at the National Stadium. Among their worries are terrorist attacks and anti-Chinese demonstrations that would draw attention to the host country’s history of human rights abuses. Tibetan exiles and their sympathizers are among those protesting the Summer Games, and they have already staged several disruptions to the Torch Relay this year.
Although all tickets for the Beijing games are embedded with microchips, passport information and photographs will only appear on those tickets for opening/closing night ceremonies. The increased security renders the opening and closing night tickets non-transferable, though tickets for the rest of the Games remain transferable, according to officials.
China’s Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, which will be used to hold information on ticket holders, is reportedly one of the most advanced in the world. The technology is used on Chinese drivers’ licenses and ID cards and helps Chinese authorities police their borders.
Because of the advanced technology, officials foresee no major technological glitches at the Games, but the system raises questions concerning the security of personal information if a fan were to lose their ticket and criminals figured out a way to access that data.
In 2006, Germany embedded World Cup tickets with microchips in a large-scale attempt to tie tickets to individual ticket holders and prevent ticket scalping. But, authorities abandoned the plan after much criticism from soccer fans and others that the ticketing system was too rigid. The system also caused long lines and delays at the gates.
In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Yang Yichun, director of the technology department for the Beijing organizing committee, said, “We noticed the problem in Germany in 2006, and we learned a lesson from them. We have made contingency plans to deal with any potential problems.”
The International Olympic Committee approves of the Beijing ticketing system.