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Monday, July 30, 2012

London Olympics checking into why so many empty seats at sold out events

"In most venues, at least a fifth of the seats are reserved for “family” members and sponsors - while this can rise to almost half the tickets for highly prized sessions."... "Rows of vacant spots were seen at swimming heats, volleyball, gymnastics and dressage events on the opening day of the Games - with “no shows” by Olympic officials, athletes and members of the media blamed.

The London 2012 organising committee (Locog) said most of the empty seats were not those sold to members of the public, but had been reserved for members of the “Olympic family.”

Sports fans complained in the wake of the great difficulty members of the public had in obtaining tickets for events after they originally went on sale. Many of the estimated one million-plus spectators lining the route of the men’s cycling road race yesterday said they had been unsuccessful in attempts to buy tickets for other events.

One, Alex Batchelor, wrote: “Can anyone explain why there are lots of empty seats? Tried repeatedly to get tickets without success.”

Organisers said last night that the public areas at the Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park in Stratford, dressage in Greenwich Park, tennis at Wimbledon and volleyball at Earls Court and Horse Guards Parade were all full. '’The public areas at all of the venues are packed and rocking,’’ a Locog spokesman said.

'It is accredited areas for sponsors, media, international federations and even the support staff for those that are competing that are looking a bit sparse.’’

During morning swimming heats at the Aquatic Centre there were an estimated 500 seats in one “block” alone, while there were thought to be more than 1,000 seats vacant at the gymnastics, despite would-buyers being told sessions were sold out.

Lord Coe, the chairman of Locog, had pledged to address the issue, which had plagued the Beijing Olympics, by having “flexible” accredited seating zones.

This was meant to allow for smaller accredited areas for heats, taking place in the morning, which would then be expanded for evening sessions when the demand for finals tickets was highest.

However, organisers appear to have abandoned that plan, citing the logistical and security problems involved repeatedly changing the formation of venues..

'’We have reduced the size of the accredited areas compared to previous Games but it is too difficult to make the size of that area flexible,’’ a spokesperson said.

Organisers also believed that some officials and sponsors slept in late yesterday to recover from Friday night’s opening ceremony, which finished well after midnight.

They are investigating which bodies did not use the seats and issuing warnings that tickets would be redistributed if the problem persists.

'’We believe the empty seats are in accredited seating areas, and we are in the process of finding out who should have been in the seats and why they weren’t there,’’ the spokesperson said....

One fan, Diana Hill, contacted the BBC, the Olympic broadcaster in the UK, to complain. She said: “To sit down and watch the first day and see the dressage event half full, huge chunks of seating empty in men’s gymnastics and badminton (and I’m sure many more events), is incredibly frustrating.

“Where are all these apparently 'sold out’ tickets going to? Sponsors? It’s a sad joke.”

There were thousands of empty seats at football matches - but organisers were expecting this because large venues failed to sell out.

Originally, some 6.6million of the total 8.8 million tickets were made available to members of the public. But many of those who applied failed to get tickets for any events at all - while others were only successful with a fraction of their total orders.

The balloting system ended with some of the most expensive tickets still available and around 500,000 football tickets removed from sale.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has ruled that a certain number of seats must be reserved for members of the “Olympic family” - whose numbers include athletes, team officials, members of federations and others.

In most venues, at least a fifth of the seats are reserved for “family” members and sponsors - while this can rise to almost half the tickets for highly prized sessions such as prestige athletics finals and the opening ceremony.

Officials have discussed operating a “recycling” scheme, similar to a policy used at Wimbledon for the tennis championships, which would see unused tickets resold, at a much cheaper price, to spectators who were already at the Olympic Park. They have also said they will make it very clear to sponsors that they must only take tickets they are certain will be used.

However, last night, it was unclear whether such a scheme would be brought in.

Most venues last night reported a vibrant atmosphere as fans turned out in hundreds of thousands for the opening day of the Games." via Free Republic

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