Sold out,but stands empty

Sold out,but stands empty

With sponsor tickets unused,Games’ organisers left embarrassed as empty seats become an eye sore at marquee events

Olympic organisers scrambled on Sunday to quell a scandal over depressing TV images of half-empty stands at the London Olympics as a government minister said an urgent inquiry had been launched to identify just who had failed to show up,and why. By the end of the day it was clear most of the seats alloted to the sponsors — eight per cent in all — were not filled by spectators.

Fans from all over Briton who had been charmed by the Olympic publicity offensive,but were let down by a complex ballot system,were outraged by footage of empty seats at key venues including Wimbledon — one of the hottest tickets in world tennis.

“It’s infuriating to see so many empty seats on TV. Surely it can’t be beyond the organisers to allow real sports fans to fill them up on a first come first served basis?” said Ed Shorthose,a London-based father of two who has been trying for months to get tickets to see the Games.

More vacant seats were reported on Sunday,the second day of the Games. Organisers said they were in touch with the International Olympic Committee to discover who failed to show up and why. A Games official said it was still unclear whether the empty seats in several events,including Wimbledon,swimming,gymnastics and basketball,had been allocated to sponsors,international federations and athletes’ families. “We are trying to find out who these tickets belonged to,” said the official.


British Olympic Association Chairman Colin Moynihan told a briefing on Sunday one solution might be a 30-minute rule whereby fans would be allowed to take up vacant seats if spectators were late or did not arrive.

No show

Moynihan said the search was on for who had not taken up tickets. “Where you have large blocks of seats you can pretty quickly know,” Moynihan said. Spectators reported more empty seats on Sunday.“We’ve got a few empty seats,so please shout twice as loud for those empty ones,” announcer Ian Oswald said at one men’s weight-lifting event.

More empty seats were reported at the women’s gymnastics,particularly close to the mat. Seats were also vacant at the eventing dressage despite the appearance of Zara Phillips,Queen Elizabeth’s grand-daughter,who is part of the British team. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt,the minister responsible for the Olympics,said he was disappointed by the empty seats and that the London Organising Committee (LOCOG) were looking into it.

“LOCOG are doing a full investigation into what happened,” Hunt told publicly funded broadcaster BBC after a widely praised surreal and exuberant opening ceremony starring the queen,Paul McCartney and Rowan Atkinson.

“We think it was accredited seats that belong to sponsors,but if they are not going to turn up,we want those tickets to be available for members of the public,because that creates the best atmosphere. So we are looking at this very urgently at the moment,” Hunt said. On Saturday some ticket box offices at venues in the park still had queues of people seeking tickets.