Asian Games hit by empty seats despite sell-outs

By Chris Hogg
BBC News, Shanghai

image captionSome events, such as this women's cricket match, have seen very poor turnout

The organisers of the Asian Games in China are facing an embarrassing problem.

The first two days of competition were witnessed by small crowds in half-empty venues, despite announcements from the organisers that events were sold out.

The problem seems to be that many tickets have been given away to corporate sponsors or community groups and then not used.

Fans who want to buy tickets to watch the sports cannot get hold of them.

On Saturday, the first cricket match of the competition was reported to be a sell-out in the new 12,000-seater stadium in Guangzhou.

Journalists who attended the event said there appeared to be just 500 people watching.

The Olympics Council of Asia, the body that oversees the games, says 400,000 extra tickets for the different events will now be printed and put on sale. A dozen new ticket booths will be set up around the city.

China could have learnt the lesson from the organisers of the recent Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which suffered exactly the same problem.

In China, they are urging those who have tickets they do not intend to use to return them to the organisers or give them away to family or friends.

They hope more people will turn up as the competitions progress from the qualifying stages to the finals.

The preparations for the games were meticulous. All the venues were ready in time. The opening ceremony was ambitious and executed flawlessly.

But there is not much point building brand new venues to hold a major sports event if the stands are half-empty and no-one outside can get hold of a ticket to get in.

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