News & Current Affairs

August 12, 2008

Empty Olympic seats cause concern

Empty Olympic seats cause concern

By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing

Empty seats dot the stadium as spectators await the start of the rowing competitions under heavy rain at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing on Sunday

In a number of events, clumps of empty seats have been visible

Courtesy BBC

Chinese officials have admitted that they are concerned about the lack of spectators at some Olympic events.

They have hired volunteers, dressed in yellow shirts, to fill up empty venues and improve the atmosphere inside.

But Wang Wei, a senior official with the Beijing organising committee (Bocog), said other Olympics had experienced similar problems.

The comments came after spectators and journalists noticed that certain venues were far from full, even though all events are sold out.

Weather?

Speaking at a daily press briefing, Mr Wang said: “We are also concerned about this not full stadium [issue].”

There were heaps of empties, it’s sickening
Judo spectator

He said a number of factors had contributed to this, including the hot and humid weather in Beijing, as well as the rain.

Mr Wang said some spectators were also only turning up for specific events, even though they had tickets for a whole session.

“For competitions like beach volleyball and basketball, [spectators] have one ticket for the whole afternoon, morning, evening,” he explained.

“They may choose to go to one of them, but not all them.”

Mr Wang, executive vice-president of Bocog, said local authorities were hiring volunteers to fill empty seats.

Volunteers enjoy the spectacular opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics on Friday

In some cases, volunteers have been drafted to fill the gaps

“If they find that there are not enough people, or if they find that there are too many empty seats, they organize some cheerleaders,” he said.

These cheer for both sides to “create a good atmosphere”, he added.

Although some events are full – such as Sunday’s clash between the men’s basketball teams from China and the United States – others have been less well attended.

Corporate sponsors

These include sessions of judo, badminton and water polo.

“There were heaps of empties. It’s sickening,” said one spectator who went to the judo expecting to see a full house.

There were even a number of empty seats at the opening ceremony on Friday.

One reason for less-than-full venues could be that seats allocated to corporate sponsors are not being used.

Many of these tickets are handed out the night before events take place, sometimes too late for those who get them to attend, according to someone with access to these tickets.

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August 9, 2008

Protest attempt at Olympic event

Protest attempt at Olympic event

Christina Chen and another protester tries to display Tibetan flag at the equestrian event in Hong Kong

Security staff moved in as soon as the pair tried to display the Tibetan flag

A student who tried to unveil a Tibetan flag during the first day of Olympic competition has been removed by officials from an equestrian event.

Christina Chan tried to display the flag, hidden under a Canadian flag, at the dressage in Hong Kong.

She was asked to leave, but refused to do so, and was later removed from the arena with a second protester.

The Games opened in Beijing on Friday with a spectacular display of fireworks, music and dancing.

Some 10,000 performers took part in the ceremony, watched on TV by an estimated one billion people, before athletes paraded around the national stadium.

Security was tight in the capital, and three US activists were arrested after holding a pro-Tibet protest.

House rules

Ms Chan sat in the front row of the dressage arena in the Sha Tin district of Hong Kong, when the first full day of the Games got under way.

Christina Chan is removed from the equestrian event in Hong Kong

Christina Chan refused to leave and was later removed

She was holding a Tibetan flag concealed under a Canadian flag, and when she and another protester tried to display it, several security officials covered her with a blue cloth.

She was asked to leave, but refused to do so, and was later carried out of the venue.

“She was sort of disturbing other spectators around her, which is against the house rules,” equestrian event spokesman Mark Pinkstone said.

Ms Chan had also protested during the Hong Kong leg of the Olympic torch relay in May.

China bans the Tibetan flag from events under rules which prevent the display of flags of countries not competing in the Games.

Anti-government riots broke out in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and elsewhere in China in March.

Pro-Tibet groups say there have been many arrests and beatings in the security crackdown which followed.

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