Olympics-Mascot diehards, scalpers camp out for Bing Dwen Dwen dolls


By Yew Lun Tian

BEIJING, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Die-hard fans, and scalpers, queued overnight for the chance to order anything in the likeness of the Winter Games mascot, a panda bear named Bing Dwen Dwen, as factories scrambled to ramp up production to catch up with demand.

Armed with foldable stools, self-heating adhesives and battery-operated hand warmers, hundreds of people braved the freezing temperatures outside a flagship store in Beijing's Wangfujing shopping area.

They were undeterred by a recording that blared repeatedly saying that everything, the soft toys, figurines, key chains, snow globes and blind boxes, was sold out.

"I already queued on Monday night, but there were 1,200 people in front of me, so by the time the store opened in the morning, there were none left for me," said a man in his 30s who only gave his name as Deng.

Unfazed, he queued up on Tuesday afternoon and was fifth in line when the store opened on Wednesday.

For his troubles, Deng and the other lucky first 500 customers merely got the chance to order one soft toy per person, which he can only pick up on Feb. 22, two days after the Beijing Olympics end.

Meanwhile, Deng consoled himself with a photo holding a stuffed Bing Dwen Dwen, whose name is officially translated to "ice child" but colloquially means "chubby ice child" in Mandarin, that he posed with at a supermarket display.

Games organisers blamed the tight supply of mascot souvenirs in part on the shutdown of factories during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday that ended on Feb. 6, but promised an increase in production to meet demand that surged as the Beijing Games began on Feb. 4.

A factory in Fujian province, over a 1,000 km (600 miles)from the capital, told Beijing News on Monday that it will resume production earlier than planned but would make just 4,000 products per day.

On Tuesday night, a scalper moved up and down the queue on whispering to shivering customers "Bing Dwen Dwen, current stock, any takers?" as his colleagues waited in line to secure more stock.

His asking price was 1,000 yuan ($157) for a soft toy, five times the store price.

Police have punished three men for reselling Bing Dwen Dwen merchandise at inflated prices, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

Deng said he will not buy from scalpers.

"It's not about the money, we can afford the few extra hundred yuan," he said. "It's about getting the mascot by my own effort that makes it memorable."

($1 = 6.3612 Chinese yuan renminbi)

(Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Editing by Tony Munroe and Christian Schmollinger)


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