Olympic venues ‘stuffed to the gunnels’?

The empty seats at events including the tennis, swimming and gymnastics have sparked anger in Britain because many people were left disappointed in the massively oversubscribed ticket ballots ahead of the Games.

Local organisers LOCOG explained that the empty seats were reserved for members of the accredited "Olympic family" – national Olympic officials, sports federations, athletes, the media and sponsors.

"Let us put this in perspective. Those venues are stuffed to the gunnels. The public are in there," Coe told a press conference.

Empty seats "in the very earliest phases" of an Olympics were not unusual, he said.

'Don't blame the sponsors'
"There are tens of thousands of people at this moment within the accredited 'family' that are trying to figure out what their day looks like, where they are going to be asked to go to, frankly working out how you divide your time."


Coe added: "I don't think you will be seeing this as an issue long-term through the Games."

International Olympic Committee communications director Mark Adams insisted that sponsors were not to blame.

He said: "It's completely wrong to say this is a sponsors issue. It's a whole range of people – federations, athletes, some media, a handful of people.

"A majority of sponsors have turned up."

Organisers were urgently seeking ways of filling any empty seats.

Soldiers, students and teachers
Soldiers involved in the security operation were given spare seats at gymnastics events on Sunday morning, while students and teachers from east London were also handed places at some unfilled venues.

A LOCOG source said the organisers were "extremely frustrated" by the empty seats.

Wimbledon's Centre Court was half-empty on Saturday for a singles match featuring a British player and on Sunday, a group of around 200 seats could be seen on the showpiece court.

There were also gaps in the stands for a second day at the swimming heats in the Aquatics Centre.

Ben Bannar-Martin, a 38-year-old banker, who was visiting the Olympic Park in east London with his wife and two daughters, said: "It's a shame. I tried to get tickets in the first ballot and I did not get any."

In contrast to the unfilled venues, huge crowds lined the streets of the route of the women's cycling road race through London and Surrey, for which tickets were not required.

'Very disappointing'
Britain's culture minister Jeremy Hunt admitted the empty seats were "very disappointing".

He added: "I was at the Beijing Games, in 2008, and one of the lessons that we took away from that, is that full stadia create the best atmosphere — it's best for the athletes, it's more fun for the spectators, it's been an absolute priority.

"LOCOG are doing a full investigation into what happened. I think it was accredited seats that belonged to sponsors, but if they're not going to turn up, we want those tickets to be available for members of the public, because that creates the best atmosphere."

Meanwhile, Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported that British police were investigating the alleged black-market sale of Olympic tickets by three official ticket agents covering the Games.

The newspaper said it had secretly filmed Olympic officials and agents offering to sell thousands of tickets for up to 10 times their face value.

Detectives launched the inquiry last week after studying more than 20 hours of recordings provided by the newspaper, the report said.

They will seek to question the official ticket agents for the national Olympic committees of China, Serbia and Lithuania, it added.

Police declined to confirm that they were probing the claims. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

England target World Cup final but gifted Croatia stand in the way

​England will seek to reach their first World Cup final since 1966 when they lock horns with a talented Croatia team on Wednesday

Asylum-seeking Assange violated bail conditions

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is seeking political asylum at Ecuador's embassy in London, has breached bail conditions, say police.

Olympics: Rush starts for London 2012 tickets

Tickets for the 2012 London Olympics went on sale on Tuesday with organisers promising the website would not crash under the expected huge demand.

WikiLeaks chief Assange moved to isolation in UK jail

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange was in a segregation unit of a London jail on Saturday, as new secret US diplomatic cables were made public.

100 days of UK coalition: Calm before the storm?

Britain's coalition government marked its first 100 days on Wednesday, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claiming it had surprised many.

Irish museum gives leprechauns their due, to be sure

Ireland is hoping to reclaim the leprechaun from Hollywood with a new museum that places the fabled little figures back in their mythological context.
Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

War of words at Zondo commission: ‘Grow up Mr Gordhan,...

The cross-examination of the public enterprises minister by Tom Moyane’s lawyers at the state capture inquiry went on well into overtime on Monday evening

‘Where the governments see statistics, I see the faces of...

Yvette Raphael describes herself as a ‘professional protester, sjambok feminist and hater of trash’. Government officials would likely refer to her as ‘a rebel’. She’s fought for equality her entire life, she says. And she’s scared of no one

Covid-19 stems ‘white’ gold rush

The pandemic hit abalone farmers fast and hard. Prices have dropped and backers appear to be losing their appetite for investing in the delicacy

Al-Shabab’s terror in Mozambique

Amid reports of brutal, indiscriminate slaughter, civilians bear the brunt as villages are abandoned and the number of refugees nears half a million
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…