Imagine you're a British sports fan who wanted to attend a particular event during the London Olympics. You couldn't get tickets, so you stayed at home and watched on TV ... only to see rows and rows of empty seats, even at high-profile events like tennis and swimming. That's exactly what's been happening so far at this year's Olympics, and organizers are now scrambling, not just to appease the angry public, but to prevent further images of empty seats after they'd pledged to fill all the venues in the wake of Beijing Olympic organizers busing in spectators four years ago.
The Daily Mail reports that many empty seats were given to foreign delegations but are being sold by scalpers — sorry, touts — on the streets of Britain. According to the paper, the empty seats were initially blamed on no-shows from tickets distributed to sponsors, but "yesterday the finger was pointed at the athletes, media and sports federations, who cannot be bothered to use their entitlement to a seat at the venue." The paper reports that, according to Scotland Yard, "every illegal seller arrested so far had held tickets despatched overseas to national committees and official re-sellers."
In the short term, British soldiers have been filling the unused seats. Students and teachers have also been brought in to fill empty seats, while fans with less expensive tickets have been allowed to upgrade them and sit in areas that had been reserved for members of the "Olympic family." Meanwhile, thousands of tickets are now being made available to the public. Via Bloomberg, a spokesperson for the London Olympics' organizing committee says that they're going "session-by-session" and asking whether they can release the tickets of those who'd been accredited. Yesterday alone, 3,000 seats were made available to the public. All of them were sold.