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London must avoid empty seats

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Gordon Farquhar | 16:05 UK time, Monday, 22 March 2010

There is nothing more infuriating for sports fans who are unable to get a ticket for something, then watch the event on TV, than to see great swathes of seats left empty by the sponsors and corporate hospitality clients who either couldn't be bothered to turn up, or weren't interested enough to leave the bar at half time.

It was a problem that plagued the Beijing Olympics, which were a sell-out according to the organisers, who then eventually bussed in "official supporters" to fill up the venues.

There were all sorts of excuses offered, but the bottom line is that every no-show represents a wasted opportunity.

LOCOG's announcement that 75 percent of tickets for the 2012 Games will go on general sale should be welcomed. It's a substantial number but there are some unanswered questions, including the big one "how much?" to which we are promised a reply in the autumn.

TV presenter Christine Bleakley and Olympic champion Christine OhuruogosChristine Bleakley and 400m gold medallist Christine Ohuruogo help launch the tickets website - photo Getty

By comparison with other major events, putting three quarters of the tickets on public sale stacks up favourably.

At the 2006 World Cup, Fifa ran a similar international open ballot, which they used to sell 36.22% of the available tickets. Meanwhile, 33% were shared out among sponsors (16%), the corporate hospitality market (11.3%) and the "football family" (6.2%).

Of the 90,000 seats at last year's FA Cup final, 17,000 went to Club Wembley members, 22,000 to the "football family" (that lot again) and 50,000 to the fans of each club, divided equally.

What LOCOG won't reveal at this point is how many tickets for the "blue riband" events, like the athletics finals, will be on general sale. I'm prepared to stand corrected, but I'll bet it ducks well below that 75% mark.

Let's not kid ourselves, however. Without the sponsors and TV money, there would be no Olympics or World Cup as we know it, and fans have just got to accept that.

What they shouldn't have to swallow however is 'corporates' taking the mickey. What is absolutely essential - and LOCOG say they will do this - is for some kind of re-entry system to be put in place along the lines of the one successfully operated for years at Wimbledon.

Sponsors who, for whatever reason, are unable to fill their seats ought to have a way on the day of giving tickets back for sale at the door, and those who have got tickets but only want to watch the main events, can give someone else the opportunity.

Go to any major competition, anywhere in the world and you'll see a Union flag. Brits turn up, which is why the organisers can have confidence that they'll shift all 10m Olympic and Paralympic tickets.

About 10,000 people an hour registered their interest when the LOCOG site went live, and that's on the back of a marketing campaign that is only being run in the UK.

Those who register will have a chance to enter the ticket ballot, but what can't be guaranteed is who will get lucky, or how many of them will be British.

EU laws say residents in all member states have to have an equal opportunity to buy tickets for major events like the Olympics, so whatever natural justice might say, Norman of Newham has no rights above Hans of Hamburg to see Usain Bolt burn them all up in the 100 metres final.

Let's hope those in the sponsors seats aren't too busy tucking into their prawn sandwiches to witness history in the making either.


  • Comment number 1.

    They need to avoid the TV cameras facing the corporate sections, happens at Wembley and only amplifies the problem by making it look like nobody has bothered to show up for the start of the second half

  • Comment number 2.

    Have just registered on the site. Really looking forward to this.

    Perhaps sponsors could distribute any unwanted tickets to local schoolkids - problem of empty seats solved & good PR for the sponsors involved.

  • Comment number 3.

    Much as the right for all EU member citizens to have equal opportunity to tickets pleases me, will those who've paid a subsidising tax get any breaks as a result?

    That's not discriminating against anyone on the grounds of nationality - it's providing a service to those who paid for it in the first place.

  • Comment number 4.

    Let the general public have the opportunity to get tickets, rather than to corporate bodies. This would ensure the real fans would be willing to pay money to watch the events they support. I have 2 children who participate in swimming and judo - they would love to see the Olympics competitions in these sports. This could encourage future generations to take part.

  • Comment number 5.

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  • Comment number 7.

    I live in west London, paid my extra bit of council tax to help without asking. Will I benifit from any of the items built for the games of course not. Will I be able to see any of the top sportsmen/women competing no I will only be able to watch the others better off watching joggers run round the park and its cheaper!

  • Comment number 8.

    Don't believe this, just posted a comment on here and lo and behold I get a email from ticketmaster asking me if I want to register for tickets for 2012. Strange...........

  • Comment number 9.

    Would it not be possible to prioritise the ticket allocation based on the attendance of a prior event such as an Aviva Grand Prix for Athletics tickets or the UK Cycling Championships for Cycling tickets? Although anyone fom he EU would be able to attend, it would be much easier for those from the UK to do so, meaning more Brits entering the priority ballot. Tickets are often allocated in this way for major football matches.

  • Comment number 10.

    Good idea, Tiger Rose. If this motivates the young spectators, this might just create the legacy that the organisers are after.

  • Comment number 11.

    I don't have a problem with tickets being available for EU members but I think priority should be given to Brits and local people in London, especially east London, where we have to put up with all the disruption that building the site has caused, for instance, the closing of the (old) North London Line, bus route diversions, closed roads etc. There is a high level of unemployment/deprivation/disadvantage in areas close to the site where I live and we should be the first to be allocated affordable tickets.

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  • Comment number 13.

    Hold on, would any other cocountry give away tickets? Did we get anything special rates from China? Are we getting any special discounts from South Africa? I am all for the Olympics BUT we need to make sure we get our money back on the outlay and putting schoolkids in seats although I understand and want to promote sport for the next generation will smack of the could not sell the seats at that event so gave them away to deserving cause.

  • Comment number 14.

    I think they should write the sponsor's name on the back of each seat so we can see who isn't showing up.

  • Comment number 15.

    Tiger Rose - Why local...there are many other schools in the UK! Just need to make a coach trip!!
    I am sure the tickets will sell as long as they are priced accordingly, along with hotels and travel! Family of 4 on a normal income should be able to afford it! Not just the richies amongst us!

  • Comment number 16.

    I really don't get the argument that because the olympics are in East London then East London residents should get priority tickets. I live in Vauxhall and I pay just as much towards the games as people from East london but I will not see any of the advantages of spanking new facilities (new swimming pool, velo park, athletics track, tennis courts, football and hockey pitches, new train station, improved East London line, huge new park, new houses and a new shopping centre etc etc etc.) I know there's a lot of disruption but that's what you get for transforming a pretty grotty bit of London into the biggest urban regeneration project in Europe. Suck it up!!!

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  • Comment number 19.


    I am glad, that the London Committee for the Olympics are able to understand that empty seats in the Olympics 2012 is not a good thing for the Public good...


  • Comment number 20.

    Got the email about tickets the other day, and have to say its bad when there are empty seats, but I just can't see that hapening here in the UK - the media hype is such that its simply impossible!

    Fifa have implemented a 'Ticket Fund' to allow pople whio aren't going to the world cup who have tickets to give them away to local fans. Hopefully cuts out the touts, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Fifa re-selling them given Match's financial difficulties. Nice idea in principle though?

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