31 Jul 2012

Empty seats continue to blight Olympic events

French President Francois Hollande criticises Locog for giving away “too many corporate seats” as spectators tell Channel 4 News that rows of empty seats remain at some events.

Locog on Monday said it would resolve the issue of empty seats by reselling tickets returned by the so-called Olympic family, namely VIPs, sports federations and media. It put 3,800 tickets up for sale on Monday night, and 3,000 on Sunday night for events the following day.

But sparse crowds remained at some events, including equestrian, tennis and volleyball.

The empty seats prompted President Hollande to criticise the number of tickets given to corporate clients at the London 2012 Games, suggesting it is the corporate ticket-holders who are not turning up. The French president suggested that France would concentrate on winning medals, rather than corporate hospitality, if it was to host the Olympics in 2024, saying: “We don’t talk of money, we talk of gold.”

“The problem is that there are simply too many corporate seats. It will be up to French organisers to sort out this problem if a bid for a future games is to be successful,” he added during a visit to London.

Ticketing a ‘major and complex issue’

The British Olympic Association also weighed into the debate, calling on the International Olympic Committee to give its ticketing policy a complete overhaul for future competitions. BOA chairman Lord Moynihan said: “It’s time to stop the blame game and also to recognise that this is such a major and complex issue. Moving forwards, this is an issue that I hope the IOC will take a lead on. This is an opportunity for the IOC to put in place an overall ticketing policy that can be improved at each Games.”

The BOA is planning to raise the issue with the IOC at its post-Olympics debriefing.

East Londoner @mdonkin said there were rows of empty seats at beach volleyball in Westminster [see above]. University lecturer John Ault (@johnault1) also told Channel 4 News that centre court was full of empty seats as Venus Williams’ match started [see below] and later for Andy Murray’s match – an observation confirmed by @Olympicjeffers.

Crowds rallied to support Britain’s equestrian team at Greenwich Park, but there were still a small number of empty seats in the arena, despite reselling of tickets by Locog.

Locog: ‘almost all’ tickets taken

However it was a mixed picture on Day 4 of the Games. Crowds were out in force at the Spain vs Australia basketball match and just a few empty seats could be seen at the earlier China vs Russia match, spectator Ben Hodgson told Channel 4 News: “My experience has been great large crowds and great atmospheres.”

Locog’s Jackie Brock-Doyle insisted on Tuesday that “almost all” of the 3,800 tickets for 30 sessions of 15 sports had gone by the morning, but added that demand would depend on the events taking place.

The reality is those who will benefit from the release of further tickets are Londoners. People in the north who were unable to get tickets first time round will feel hard done by. Simon Danczuk, Labour MP

Olympic organisers also added that in the future, spectators will be able to print tickets at home after buying them online, rather than having to wait in queues at the box office. Tickets are not available venue box offices.

But Labour’s Simon Danczuk said that the release of additional tickets would only benefit southerners, and Londoners in particular, putting spectators in the North at a disadvantage.

“We were promised these games would be inclusive and reach out to all corners of the UK,” said the MP for Rochdale, Greater Manchester. “Yet the reality is those who will benefit from the release of further tickets are Londoners. People in the north who were unable to get tickets first time round will feel hard done by.”

Troops are being offered the chance to take up empty seats at the last minute, along with schoolchildren and teachers from the local area.