On Sunday, 9th April 2017, my husband lined up at Stadium Perpaduan in Kuching to buy tickets for himself and I for the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open 2017 final. Limited tickets were to start selling at 11am, and each person would be allowed to buy two tickets each, as stipulated on the ticket sale website. When he arrived at 6am, he joined a queue of a few dozen people also waiting to buy tickets.
He had been amongst the first to queue up to buy at-the-door tickets for both the quarter finals and semi finals, so it was clear to him that he was in a safe position to once again buy tickets based on the first-come-first-serve basis that happened in the days before.
However, as the hours ticked by, my husband noticed more and more people turning up and hovering around the entrance doors of the ticket counter. By the time it got to 9am, there was a swarm of people who had obviously not queued up. He also heard people calling their friends and family on their phones, asking to join them in queue, which they did, and naturally affected the order of the people who had been lining up much earlier.
By the time the authorities came around to set up a queue tape, at around 11am, the queue was chaotic, disorderly and almost nonexistent. Hundreds of queue-cutters got away with buying tickets, in place of those who were courteous enough to be fair and square to wait for hours in the humidity and heat together with my husband. When he alerted a security staff on duty about the wrong-doing, all the staff person did was shrug it off.
As a Malaysian, I am well aware of the notorious culture of queue-cutting in this country. However, I felt this was an unacceptable customer experience for something as world-renowned as a World Super Series Premier event, especially with Malaysia being one of only five countries to host this event. Another country is Denmark, where my husband is from. He says this would have never happened in the Copenhagen tournament. He has told his family and friends about his experience here, and they are flabbergasted at the inconsistency of standards in security and crowd management. (To emphasize this point, as we left the stadium, we saw ticket-holders still stuck in queue outside the building and starting to boo, because they were hearing announcements inside the stadium of the first match already starting!)
My husband and I don’t feel upset for ourselves, as much as we feel upset for others who missed out on their chance to watch the Finals because of queue-cutting. My husband was in the company of children who waited for hours with their parents. How upset would they feel in missing out on this once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch their heroes? What sort of example in common civic courtesy are we setting for them? It seems like we are allowing bad manners to be seen as okay or ‘normal’, for them to grow up and do the same to other children.
I have read in a news report that the Badminton Association of Malaysia and Badminton World Federation worked closely with the Sarawak Badminton Association, Sarawak State Sports Council and state government to make sure that the event ran smoothly. But clearly, regulation of the ticket-buying process on the days itself had not been taken into serious consideration. Surely, knowing that two of the biggest names in badminton, Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan, were to compete in the Final, should have promoted the idea of stronger enforcement and protocols both in and outside the stadium, and to have responded in a more timely, intuitive manner with crowd management? I feel it is not the public’s fault for being discourteous, but it should have been more of a responsibility of the organisers to create an environment where rules are to be followed.
If we are genuinely striving for Malaysia to be a seen as a gracious host for such prestigious international events, then I feel that local organisers must implement much more foresight, planning and stringent execution of security to avoid such embarrassing situations in the future.