Olympics 2012: Empty Seats in London Don't Mean Attendance Has Suffered

Eric BallFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2012

Photo via buzzfeed.com
Photo via buzzfeed.com

You may have seen a plethora of empty seats on television thus far during the 2012 Olympics, but that doesn’t mean the attendance numbers haven’t been spectacular.

The Associated Press reports that 2.1 million people have attended events in the first three days of the London Games. Olympic organizers told the AP that 86 percent of people with tickets showed up on Saturday, and that number rose to 92 percent on Saturday and 88 percent on Monday.

So how do you explain all of the empty seats captured by the cameras of NBC?

The blame has been pointed in various directions (via AP):

The gaps have been blamed mostly on officials from sports governing bodies and national Olympic committees not using their allocations of prime seats in plain sight of television cameras and photographers.

Empty seats in privileged spots angered many British people who failed in their applications to get Games tickets in public ballots.

So it’s not that people aren’t showing up, but the so called “privileged spots” that are typically handed out for free aren’t being used.

It reminds me of the issues the New York Yankees have with their lower level seats. With extremely high prices, few can afford to sit in the seats that show up on the T.V. screen. Combine that with corporate executives who use their tickets sparingly and it doesn’t look like the Yanks draw well, despite numbers that tell a different story.

Another issue is the strict rules regarding ticket resale.

Scalpers are getting their hands on plenty of tickets, but there have been multiple arrests which have scared away a large portion of the market according to buzzfeed.com.

The issue isn’t fan interest. The problem lies in the freebies that aren’t being used and the strict rules on reselling them.

To curb this issue, Olympic organizers now plan to speak with the officials of each sport on a nightly basis to recapture some of the lower-level seats that have gone unused, according to the AP.  This is the best solution at this point, and it should help alleviate some of the issues in time for the track and field events which are slated to begin on Friday.

The interest is clearly there. People are dying to view live Olympic action for quite possibly the only time in their entire lives and are going to dole out the dough to ensure they see it.

It’s up to the Olympic organizers and officials of each sport to cooperate, and ensure the ugliness of empty seats doesn’t continue to show up on television screens around the world.