Why are the empty seats at the Olympics getting more attention than the athletes?


After seven long years of preparation by our great nation, the London 2012 Olympic Games are finally in full flow. People have been scrabbling for over a year to get tickets to events which were promised to sell out to people from all corners of the globe, with some people even paying extortionate amounts of money to get the best seats in the house for what is sure to be an event that will go down in history.

So what’s the deal with the empty seats at Wimbledon, football stadia and the aquatic centre over the last couple of days? The Olympic Games have barely started, yet members of the so-called “Olympic Family” (namely International Olympic Committee officials, National Olympic committees, international federations, media and some sponsors) decided that they either couldn’t be bothered to give tickets to people who would actually attend, or just weren’t that fussed about wasting tickets, which they were given for free when members of the public had scraped together money for the cheap seats at the top. It has been said there are members of the Olympic Family who had been given tickets for five different events taking part at one time, making it a given that some seats would be left unused. If that doesn’t sound like a waste, I don’t know what does. I don’t understand the motive to just not worry about leaving empty seats at the biggest sporting event in the world, knowing there are people absolutely gutted that they didn’t get the chance to go.

Richardson via Wikimedia Commons

The British Olympic Association chairman, Loyd Moynihan, has said that they “owe it to the fans” to fill the empty seats and they are looking for a 30-minute cut off point for ticketholders to take their seats before they are opened up to the public. Too right. Why should the big-gun international sport committees get away with feeling that they have the right to waste best-seat tickets they have been given, when members of the public from all over the world have paid a lot of money to sit behind them? It’s even a bit of a slap in the face and a flaunt of their power to keep the front seats empty and make the public sit behind them; they should at least be moved forward. If they have to have empty seats for these big events, they may as well be right at the back, surely? Make the ungrateful no-shows pay to upgrade the public to the good seats. After all, it would be a waste not to.

On a different note, having empty seats is a ridiculous way to bring attention away from the Games. With thousands of athletes preparing to give the performances of their lives, how is it that we are focusing on the lazy few that couldn’t be bothered to show? Unfortunately, it goes without saying that full stadia would create the best atmosphere and the athletes would be able to physically feel the support of the crowd, which might help them perform. And, in turn, the spectators would have a better experience. If said spectators are sat behind 10 rows of empty seats, however, both athletes and spectators alike could be feel put-out by the blatant lack of support from some of the important companies involved in creating the Games. This could result in people feeling let-down: “oh, yeah, I had a great time, but we were sat behind a block of empty seats…”. It’s sad that these non-supporters have the limelight rather than the immensely talented athletes that  have gathered in London for the Games.

The BOA are right to do something about the empty seats and the 30-minute cut off point is a good place to start, as it ensures each event will be full as well as giving people who may not have had the opportunity to go to the Olympics another chance. It should be dealt with swiftly and calmly so that we can put all our focus and energy back on the competitors, where it belongs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mattypbrown Matty Brown

    Great article!

  • http://twitter.com/CharlotteLMU Charlotte Corner

    It really is such a shame. Good read.