June 20, 2018
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Empty seats at the Olympics upset fans vying for a view of the games

By Thomas Penny and Chris Spillane, Bloomberg News

LONDON — Seats at Olympic venues should be resold if they are still empty 30 minutes into events at the London Games, Colin Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association, said.

Moynihan was responding to reports in the British media about banks of empty seats at events that British sports fans had been unable to get tickets for. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has started an inquiry into the gaps.

“There must be a way where seats are empty half an hour into an event that they can be filled by sports fanatics — we owe it to the teams and we owe it to the country,” Moynihan told reporters at the Olympic Park Sunday. “The organizers can pretty quickly know who has acquired those seats and go to those people, especially if they’re sponsors, and say are those seats going to be taken?”

Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Organizing Committee, said it was too early in the games to carry out his threat to “name and shame” sponsors who failed to use their seats. Moynihan’s proposal would cause more difficulties than it would resolve, he said.

Most of the empty seats were as a result of people accredited by national Olympic committees still working out where they needed to be and when, Coe said. There will be fewer empty seats as the games progress, he said.

Seats have been filled by students and teachers from boroughs around the Olympic venues, military personnel who are guarding the games and fans upgraded from cheaper areas of the venues, Coe said. Seats were sold Saturday for the gymnastics events Sunday at North Greenwich Arena, he said.

“I’m not sure if naming and shaming is what we’re into at the moment,” Coe told reporters. “Let’s put this in perspective, those venues are packed to the gunwales, there are tens of thousands of people within the accredited family who are trying to figure out what their day looks like. This is not going to be an issue right the way through the games.”

The problem may not be caused by sponsors, Coe said, and Hunt, who told the BBC Saturday that they were responsible, Sunday revised his position to say the games’ sponsors are using their tickets. About eight percent of tickets went to corporate partners, a spokeswoman for Hunt’s department said Sunday in an emailed statement.

“LOCOG will keep the situation under constant review and we will be in close touch with them on this issue over the course of the next few hours,” the statement said. “Everything possible will be done to make empty seats available to the public.”

Moynihan said the boost given to British competitors in Saturday’s rowing events showed the benefit of packing venues with home fans.

“It worked so well at the rowing . . . and it had such a positive effect on the squad,” he said. “Where there are blocks of unused seats it’s important we find ways of getting the British public into them to support team GB.”

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