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The Vancouver Sun
March 6, 2004
Byline: Douglas Todd

Lama-palooza ticket rush to be solved through lottery

Victor Chan, chief organizer for the Dalai Lama's dialogue, says he's under immense pressure for the limited number of passes and tickets.
CREDIT: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

photo: Bill Keay, Vancouver Sun

Victor Chan believes it could be the hottest ticket in North America—and his face is showing the strain of dealing with a torrent of people trying to get hold of one.

The chief organizer of an historic Vancouver dialogue with the Dalai Lama, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu, former Czech Republic president Vaclav Havel and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi is being knocked off his feet by well-placed people in Canada and the U.S. lobbying him for some of the 1,200 passes to the event.

After 25,000 tickets were sold out in a weekend to the Dalai Lama's solo talks at the Pacific Coliseum, Chan says the pressure from all kinds of people wanting the precious tickets to the April 20th forum with the Dalai Lama and other famous spiritual leaders is almost too much for him to handle.

Canadian senators, university deans, VIPs across Canada and the U.S. and other notables Chan feels he can't publicly name are pressing him for tickets to the round table discussion at UBC's Chan Centre.

"My life has been turned upside down by the seating issue. I could be selling these tickets at $300 a pop," says Chan, who has known the Dalai Lama for 31 years and never seen such intense demand for one of his events.

"It's been a bloody major headache for me," said Chan, who says he's a Buddhist but not a good one because he doesn't meditate enough.

Chan's solution to the flood of demand?

Make the tickets free.

And distribute many of them through a lottery system that organizers will try to make fair.

On Friday the visit's organizing committee formally released information on how B.C. high school and university students and others could enter an essay-writing contest to obtain tickets to the round table discussion on education and spirituality at the Chan Centre.

In addition to the Dalai Lama, Tutu, Havel and Ebadi, the one-of-its-kind round table dialogue will feature noted American Jewish teacher Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi and aboriginal UBC professor Jo-Ann Archibald.

The session will be moderated by Vancouver-area Anglican Bishop Michael Ingham.

The website for the Dalai Lama's visit ( has instructions on how B.C. high schools have until March 15 to work with Grade 11 and 12 students who want to write an 800-word essay on the round table's theme, Balancing Educating the Mind with Educating the Heart.

Two essay winners will be selected and may be allowed to ask questions of participants at the round table. A "significant number" of runners-up will be given invitation-only tickets to attend a simulcast of the round table discussion at Simon Fraser University's Centre for Dialogue.

A similar essay-writing contest is being held for all undergraduate and graduate students at UBC and SFU, which, in a rare joint effort, are both giving honorary degrees in April to the Dalai Lama, Tutu, Havel and Ebadi.

The Vancouver Sun is also going to be part of the system for distributing free tickets to the round table discussion.

Through a program to be announced later this month, The Sun will sponsor a related essay-writing contest.

Chan has travelled the world with the Dalai Lama and worked closely with Professor Pitman Porter, director of UBC's Institute of Asian Research, to organize the unique events that make up the Dalai Lama's Vancouver visit. He says he's never seen such excitement.

"There's intense hunger to hear what these leading lights have to say about subjects that are very much in people's minds, including the war in Iraq and the situation in Afghanistan," said Chan.

"People are feeling a little lost and they want to know the right thing to do."

Major media outlets across Canada and the U.S., and from as far away as Japan and Germany, are planning to cover the April 20 round table discussion, Chan says. A documentary filmmaker will also record the event.

Chan said B.C. will be the only place in which Tutu, Havel and Ebadi and others will join in dialogue with the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

Several other events involving the Dalai Lama in Vancouver—including an academic conference on Tibet and a Vancouver Symphony musical tribute emceed by actress Goldie Hawn—have also sold out.

The only Dalai Lama-related event for which tickets are still available is a $300 three-day interfaith meditation retreat sponsored by Vancouver's Multifaith Action Society. For information see