Soldiers and students to take empty seats as organisers investigate ticket farce
11:23 GMT, 29 July 2012
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London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe said troops and students would be given the empty seats at a number of Olympics venues but claimed most were full.
Gaps were visible at a number of venues on Saturday and Sunday, including the Aquatics Centre, gymnastics and beach volleyball – other venues such as rowing, boxing, shooting and handball were full.
An urgent investigation has been launched after fans expressed disappointment at the sight of rows of empty seats
Sit yourself down: Soldiers take some of the seats at the women's gymnastics on Sunday morning
No backing for the boys: Empty seats at Earls Court for Great Britain against Bulgaria in the volleyball on Sunday
Coe said students, teachers and troops had been given some of the empty seats, most of which had been 'accredited seats' reserved for teams, federations and Olympic officials.
Coe said: 'I don't want to see swathes of seats empty and will make sure we can do everything we can to fill them.
'For example we looked at gymnastics today and could see empty seats in the accredited area so were able to move some troops so they were sitting there this morning enjoying the gymnastics.
'But let's put this into perspective – those venues are stuffed to the gunwales.'
Disappointing: More emoty seats at Britain's opening volleyball game
IOC communications director Mark Adams insisted that sponsors were not to blame for the problems.
He said: 'It's completely wrong to say this is a sponsors issue. It's a whole range of people – federations, athletes, some media, a handful of people, largely speaking the sponsors are in other areas. A majority of sponsors have turned up.'
Organisers were prompted to act after gaps were visible at a number of venues, including the Aquatics Centre where British medal hope Hannah Miley missed out on a podium place.
In contrast, huge crowds lined the streets, where tickets were not required, to watch Mark Cavendish and Team GB compete in the cycling road race.
Come on in, there's loads of room: The Aquatics Centre on Saturday morning
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said the
empty seats were 'very disappointing' and suggested they could be
offered to members of the public.
He added: 'I was at the Beijing Games, in 2008, and one of the lessons that we took away from that, is that full stadia create the best atmosphere, it's best for the athletes, it's more fun for the spectators, it's been an absolute priority.
'LOCOG are doing a full investigation into what happened, I think it was accredited seats that belonged to sponsors, but if they're not going to turn up, we want those tickets to be available for members of the public, because that creates the best atmosphere.
Missing out: Empty seats were a familiar sight on day one at the pool
'We are looking at this very urgently at the moment.'
said a system had been introduced for these Olympics similar to the one
used at Wimbledon, where people coming out of the stadium handed on
their tickets so the seats could be made available to other people.
'So we are trying a lot of innovations, it's a shame this happened, but we are going to do everything we can to make sure we fill up these stadia.'
The cheaper seats higher in the stands were mostly full but those lower down, which are generally more expensive, were not filled.
One basketball spectator, Jane Smith, from London, said: 'It's very disappointing to see this, particularly as we all tried so hard to get our tickets. It doesn't help the atmosphere at all.'
Take your pick: A spectator sits amid empty seats during Caroline Wozniacki's win over Anne Keothavong
Other fans took to Twitter to express their concerns.
One fan wrote: 'All those empty seats should have been given to the locals or sold on first come first serve on the day. Games are looking real empty!'
A spokesman for LOCOG said the majority of the empty seats were believed to belong to accredited groups such as governing bodies and the media.
He added that some tickets remained unsold and urged members of the public to check online for opportunities to attend the games.
'Many of our venues were packed to the rafters today. Where there are empty seats, we will look at who should have been sitting in the seats, and why they did not attend,' he said.
Where is everybody North Greenwich Arena was not full for the gymnastics
'Early indications are that the empty seats are in accredited seating areas, but this is day one, and our end of day review will provide a fuller picture of attendance levels across all our venues.'
Coe has previously threatened to name and shame companies which do not use their tickets.
British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan welcomed the investigation into the allocation of tickets, saying the home athletes and fans deserved to see stadiums at capacity.
'The position of the British Olympic Association is very clear, we want every seat filled,' he said. 'We welcome the fact this morning that Jeremy Hunt has taken responsibility and announced that he is going to lead an inquiry with LOCOG and Seb this morning to work on this.
'We are very keen that there should be an early solution and that the empty seats should be filled as quickly as possible.
'Yesterday it worked best at Eton Dorney, we had record crowds – there's never been 25,000 seats sold and filled for a rowing event.
'That lifts the British team. We need every seat filled. We owe it to the team, we owe it to British sports fans the length and breadth of the country to make sure they get the opportunity to come to this unique occasion at the Olympic Games.'
The BOA is not tasked with the decision-making surrounding tickets, however, Lord Moynihan revealed he had asked Locog about the possibility of filling empty seats with members of the armed forces who have been drafted in to help out with security.
Lord Moynihan also tabled an idea to throw venues open to members of the public 30 minutes after events start should seats still be available.
'I have a range of ideas about this problem but I think it would only be right and proper for Jeremy Hunt who has taken the initiative to sit down with those directly responsible for ticketing to come up with some solutions to make sure we don't get a repetition of large blocks of seats not used,' he said.
'I think where you have an empty area surely there must be a way of finding that half-an-hour into an event those seats can be filled by great sports fanatics and not left empty.
'I think the 30-minute rule should be explored. I think it is an important one, but equally you've got to look into the fact that while the Jubilee Line is running exceptionally well at the moment there may be a morning when it isn't.
'If somebody has come with young children and is really keen to come to the event then you have got problems if you implement too rigorously a 30-minute rule.
'There are difficulties inherent in all the solutions but I have no doubt that where you have large blocks of seats not used that the organisers can pretty quickly know who has acquired those seats and, if they are not filled by those people or sponsors, then asking if they are going to be filled and, if not, making sure we get people on seats as fast as possible.'