London 2012 Olympics: Public will get chance to buy empty seats

TICKETS allocated to sports officials who fail to turn up for Olympic events will be sold to the public in the hours before the events, in an attempt to defuse the row over empty seats.

TICKETS allocated to sports officials who fail to turn up for Olympic events will be sold to the public in the hours before the events, in an attempt to defuse the row over empty seats.

Locog, the London 2012 organising committee, said 3,000 briefs from international sports federations were sold overnight on Sunday, a strategy that will be pursued for the rest of the Games to avoid the embarrassing scenes of vacant blocks of seating at prestigious events.

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Some 600 gymnastics tickets, and between 500 and 700 for beach volleyball were passed on to the public in the first round of reallocations, along with passes for swimming, water polo, handball and equestrian events.

Jackie Brock-Doyle, Locog’s director of communications, said organisers were consulting with international federations and other accredited groups on a “day-to-day” and “session-by-session” basis in order to free up as many tickets as possible every evening.

She said yesterday: “We are trying everything we can to make sure that those accredited seats are filled where we can. There are operational issues that make it difficult to fill some of those seats, which is why we are making them available to the troops and to the teachers and the children.

“There are 150 children and teachers on the park today; that’s only for the park. We will increase that to about 300 to 400 tomorrow.

“We really are doing the best we can, but it’s not an exact science.”

Ms Brock-Doyle pointed out that, compared with the Beijing Games four years ago, there had been a 15 per cent reduction in accredited seating, and she expressed confidence that London 2012’s venues had a buoyant atmosphere.

“If you go into the venues it is jam-packed, the British spectators in there are brilliant, everyone’s talking about how great the atmosphere is and they’re full,” she added.

She said there had been “lots of conversations over the years” with each of the accredited groups, and where they had been able to take tickets back, they had.

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She also told the briefing at the Olympic Park that no international sports federations had “just said no” to requests for
accredited tickets to be given back.

“Everybody gave a little bit back” she said.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he thought Locog were “doing a good job of getting on top of that particular problem”.

It comes as shadow Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell demanded urgent action to end the scandal of empty seats.

She said: “We’ve got to get people into those seats today, tomorrow and the next day. I think the measures Seb Coe
announced yesterday go quite a long way into that, together with the recycling of tickets for people who are already in the park. This is very important for the confidence of the public.”

About 50 seats previously classed as restricted-view and unoccupied during the first two days of the badminton at Wembley Arena were filled yesterday by members of the RAF and army security teams. Apart from two other rows of restricted-view seats, the 4,800-capacity venue has been close to full.

Elsewhere, there were 300 empty seats at the North Greenwich arena for the gymnastics men’s team final, swaths of accredited seating at the weightlifting event and a quarter of seats empty for the table tennis.

Downing Street said the empty seats were “disappointing”, but insisted it was a matter for Locog.

The spokeswoman said: “There are bound to be challenges throughout the Games, but he [Mr Cameron] was very impressed with the progress so far, very impressed with the opening ceremony.”

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Sir Clive Woodward, Team GB’s deputy chef de mission, also suggested London’s venues were full compared to four years ago in China.

He said: “I was in Beijing and, to put it in perspective, I was going to tennis matches and hockey matches in Beijing where there was nobody there.”

He added: “You can see it doesn’t look right, but I feel a bit for Locog as well because they’re trying to keep everyone happy.

“I can see how it looks and you feel for the people at home who’d love to be there. I know they’re working on it. As we speak now they’re trying to work out ways of trying to fix it.”

The resale tickets being released each evening are available for online only.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said again yesterday that a possible 30-minute rule was being considered.

But he added: “We are hosting this event under a contractual arrangement that we have with the International Olympic Committee and sports federations, and so we do have to respect what we’ve agreed to contractually in order to get London to host the Games.”