Giro d'Italia ticket website suffers meltdown
It's usually visiting rock stars who crash websites and spark hundreds to queue on the streets for tickets.
But yesterday it was the cycling stars of the Giro d'Italia who caused a furious scramble for tickets – and anger when the system couldn't cope with demand.
Tickets for the Giro d'Italia opening event – to be staged at Belfast City Hall on Thursday, May 8 – were released at 9am yesterday.
There were 4,000 tickets available online and a further 1,500 available to those who queued at the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre in the city centre.
As around 600 people queued along the street outside the Welcome Centre, thousands more were sitting at home or at work, poised to buy tickets.
But the Giro fans were left fuming after the system went into meltdown because of the rush for tickets. Many were kept in an on-line queue for over three hours, without any success.
The opening event is billed as a chance to "see your cycling idols up close and personal".
The riders will be presented to the crowd and there will be performances from Irish tenor Finbar Wright and stunt cycling group Ramprage Extreme Sports Crew.
The online system ran into trouble yesterday morning because of the demand. This forced many who had been trying online to make for the Visit Belfast Welcome Centre – but they were to be disappointed because the only tickets left had been designated for online customers.
Bill Corr (55), a hospital porter who had taken the day off to ensure he got a ticket, went to the Welcome Centre after giving up on the website.
"I am incredibly frustrated. I spent all morning on their website, but that was a complete waste of time," he said. "I then came down here to try and get a ticket in person only to be told they have tickets, but they are allocated for online sales only. It's pathetic. They knew how much interest there would be from the number of people who pre-registered and they still weren't ready."
Stephen Young, a 40-year-old joiner, was among the customers affected by the website issues. He also gave up online and arrived at Visit Belfast in person.
"The system was absolutely horrific, I was queuing and queuing but I kept getting kicked to the back of the queue," he said.
"I am really angry. I love cycling and I'm going to miss out on the only opportunity I may have to see this event in my home town.
"They obviously weren't prepared for the level of interest that was inevitable."
Kathryn Johnston was one of those people who patiently waited online... and waited. "I joined the queue before 9am and I was online four hours with no luck," she said.
"The system was absolutely terrible. The website just kept resetting and sending me to the back of the queue.
"I'm really disgusted by how poorly this has been organised. If they can't manage to organise a ticket system, what hope do we have for the actual event?"
Mary Jo McCanny of Visit Belfast said public demand had been "huge" and acknowledged that there had been "frustrating delays" for some.
Although there were many who were left disappointed by the ticketing system, some people did manage to get their hands on them.
Around 600 people were queuing outside the Welcome Centre before the doors opened at 9am. By 10.30am, the 1,500 tickets available over the counter had gone, and by 2.30pm 4,000 of the online tickets had all been claimed.