Outrage over empty Olympic seats
Mon, 30 Jul 2012 6:11p.m.
By Mike McRoberts
There's growing anger among fans unable to get Olympic tickets while prime seats at the venues are left empty.
The no-shows are bureaucrats and VIPs from the so-called “Olympic family”, but like those distant cousins you never see, they're fast becoming the event's black sheep.
Kiwi equestrian fans have travelled all the way from Southland, but now they can't get tickets for the all-important cross country.
Like many Britons, they're annoyed so many sold-out events look anything but full.
"There are just empty seats everywhere and we can guarantee that tomorrow there won't be spare tickets as well,” says equestrian fan Bernie Hewitson.
"For the competitors as well though it's disappointing as they have worked all their lifetime to get to this achievement and the stadium is only half-full," says Amanda Wimsloe.
Empty seats at normally prized Olympic events like swimming have caused a media storm in London.
Social media sites like Twitter have been flooded with photos of empty stands.
In one of the men's gymnastics events, a photo shows nearly three banks of near-empty seats.
Olympics organisers had threatened to name and shame people who hadn't taken up their seats.
"This is rather early in this whole process,” says London 2012 chairman Lord Coe. “This is not unfamiliar in the preliminary rounds."
They won't give specific names, but the no-shows are media, members of international sporting federations, non-competing athletes, dignitaries and technical officials.
They were not seats belonging to corporate sponsors.
The International Olympic Committee acknowledged this doesn't look good.
"It's not good for us either,” says Mark Adams of the IOC. “We don't like to see empty seats. The public don't like to see empty seats. What I will say is it is a very small number and we are dealing with it.”
Punters without tickets are understandably put out. So what can they do?
Last night when they started to realise what was happening, they made the accredited areas smaller so others could take seats. They also offered some seats to teachers, school children and the army.
"There are tens of thousands of people at this moment within that accredited family who 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 are going to divide your time,” says Lord Coe.
“I don't think this is going to be an issue. [It’s] certainly not going to be an issue right throughout the Games."
About 17 percent of overall Olympic tickets go to the accredited Olympic family. But if the empty seats become the norm, ordinary punters may lose patience.
“You are really passionate about a sport and you can’t come and there are people who get the tickets and don't take them seriously,” says Ms Hewitson. “They think ‘I'm not going to come because it might rain.’ It’s ridiculous."
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