Venue seats are often empty for a reason

The great Olympic empty seat story is a long-established non-story. It happens at every games - and I have attended 16 of them, many as part of the “Olympic family” being blamed for the unfilled arenas in London.

Imagine you are among the legion of assorted administrators and coaches with each of the competing nations. You want to see as many members of your team in action as possible. So, you flit from venue to venue, often covering seven or eight events in a single evening.

The reality is that organisers have to set aside seats - although less than 2 per cent of the total - for these floating spectators. Imagine the embarrassment if Michelle Obama arrives to watch an American compete and finds all the seats taken.

Some people have assumed sponsors are also to blame. In fact, companies need to justify their heavy investment in the games and that means filling their costly seats. A typical sponsor I talked to on Sunday had used 362 of the 380 tickets available to his company that day.

London has done better than most hosts. In Seoul, organisers struggled to fill the stadium even for track and field events. Athens and Beijing had swaths of empty seats early on.

The real story is that London is the most popular games of all those I have experienced.

The huge crowds for the cycling road race was the highlight so far but events such as handball and the canoe slalom have also seen record attendance.

And, there is another story the media is curiously silent about: empty seats in the media sections. The reasons for this are the same as for the other empty seats. Journalists - like the Olympic officials - are hopping from venue to venue taking the pulse and watching different competitions unfold.

Empty seats fill column inches, but they shouldn’t get in the way of the really big story: the British public is loving the games.

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