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Coe says venues are ‘stuffed to the gunnels’ as public get angry over empty seats

Olympic sponsors Atos, British Airways, Coca-Cola, EDF, McDonalds and Thomas Cook have all issued statements denying that they were responsible for failing to take up ticket allocations.

Empty seats are seen during the Artistic Gymnastics team qualification at the North Greenwich Arena, London yesterday
Empty seats are seen during the Artistic Gymnastics team qualification at the North Greenwich Arena, London yesterday
Image: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire/Press Association Images

THE CHAIRMAN OF the London Olympic Games has denied that there are any problems with empty seats at venues across the city.

Despite a LOCOG investigation into why some ticket allocations were not taken up on opening day, Sebastian Coe insisted that most stadiums and arenas were full of spectators.

“Let us put this in perspective. Those venues are stuffed to the gunnels. The public are in there,” Coe said at a press conference today. He claimed that the number of unoccupied seats, which were clearly visible during televised broadcasts, were due to accredited officials still working out which events to attend and planning their timetables.

The vacant pews had been assigned to the so-called Olympic Family, including media, sponsors and officials. Coe said that empty seats during the early stages are “not unfamiliar”. “Certainly this is not going to be an issue through the Games.”

About 1.1 million tickets of the 8.8 million available have been reserved for sponsors for the 17 days of events.

LOCOG is examining ways of ensuring seats are filled ahead of events with suggestions that soldiers and other service men and women could be given tickets, as they were this morning in the gymnastics arena.

The most glaring empty blocks were seen during last night’s swim meet which featured household names Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the final of the 400m individual medley. Despite the pull that those superstars offer, there were at least 500 empty seats in one block alone during the morning session.

According to the Daily Telegraph, Olympic sponsors Atos, British Airways, Coca-Cola, EDF, McDonalds and Thomas Cook all issued statements denying that they were responsible for failing to take up seat allocations.

Coe says he has no plans to ‘name and shame’ those who fail to turn up to events they have been given access to, a decision which may anger the public further.

Coe says venues are ‘stuffed to the gunnels’ as public get angry over empty seats
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Britain’s culture minister Jeremy Hunt has admitted that the empty blocks at the Aquatic Centre, gymnastics arena, football stadiums and equestrian events were “very disappointing”.

The Guardian reports that the British Olympic Association has also commented on the row, insisting that seats should be filled with home fans if attendees fail to turn up 30 minutes after the start of the event.

“The position of the BOA is very clear. We want absolutely every seat filled,” said chairman Lord Moynihan. “We owe it to the British sporting public to give them an opportunity to attend one of the most historic sporting events of their lives.”

Meanwhile, police in London have said that 16 people have been arrested over the past two days in relation to the alleged illegal selling of tickets.

-Additional reporting by AFP

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