Chinese sport fans have embraced an online lottery for tickets to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Nearly 90 per cent of ticket applications were submitted through the Beijing Organising Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad’s (BOCOG’s) ticketing website, according to the Chinese Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), an organisation that oversees the .cn top-level domain and tracks internet usage in the country.

The remaining applications – 10.6 per cent of the total – were made using paper forms submitted through Bank of China branches across the country.

“The internet has become the most important channel for Olympic ticket sales,” CNNIC said in a recent report.

The first Olympic tickets to go on sale in China are being sold through a lottery system. The first phase of the lottery lasted from April 15 to June 30. During that period, BOCOG received 700,000 applications for a total of 4.9 million tickets to Olympic events, CNNIC said. It did not say how many tickets are being offered during the lottery.

During the second phase of the lottery process, which lasts from July until September, BOCOG will allocate tickets and charge customers, although pricing for individual tickets has not yet been made public. Payment can only be made using Visa credit and debit cards or through a Bank of China savings account.

The most popular event during the lottery was the opening ceremony, planned for Aug. 8, 2008. Nearly 51 per cent of ticket applications received during the lottery are for the opening ceremony, CNNIC said. The next most popular events are basketball (39 per cent) and soccer (35 per cent). The least popular event is softball, which accounted for 0.9 percent of ticket applications.

Chinese sport fans who missed the lottery can still buy tickets for the games. The remaining tickets will go on sale in October through BOCOG’s website, Bank of China, and the Olympic Ticketing Call Center. Tickets will also be sold at the venue for each event starting in April 2008.