Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Empty seats at London Olympics are betraying idea of the people's Games

This should not be about providing the corporates with more privileges

Empty seats on Centre Court during Great Britain's Andy Murray's First Round match in the Men's Singles at the Olympic Tennis Venue, Wimbledon
Empty seats on Centre Court during Great Britain's Andy Murray's First Round match in the Men's Singles at the Olympic Tennis Venue, Wimbledon
Empty seats during the Egypt v New Zealand Group C match at Old Trafford, Manchester
Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska plays in front of empty seats, during the First Round of the Women's Singles at the Olympic Tennis Venue, Wimbledon
Empty seats are seen during the Artistic Gymnastics team qualification at the North Greenwich Arena
Empty seats are seen during the artistic gymnastics team qualification at the North Greenwich Arena, London
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: The Olympic Rings are assembled during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Mark Cavendish crosses the finish line in the men's road race
Kazakhstan's Alexandr Vinolurov celebrates winning gold (centre) alongside second placed Rigoberto Uran and third placed Alexander Kristoff
Hannah Miley came fifth in the Women's 400m Individual Medley at the Aquatic Centre
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers dressed up as Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond parachute out of a helicopter above the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: (L-R) Norma Major, Gordon Brown and Chief Executive of LOCOG Paul Deighton during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Gary Connery and Mark Sutton parachute into the stadium as part of short James Bond film featuring Daniel Craig and The Queen during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Performers depict a scene of an ordinary family arriving home on a Saturday night during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: United States' fans celebrate the openning of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Trafalgar Square on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: British Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Jeremy Hunt (2L) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (R) is seen during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: People celebrate the openning of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Trafalgar Square on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: People celebrate the openning of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Trafalgar Square on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Rings representing both the Olympics and the Industrial Revolution are lit during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Rings representing both the Olympics and the Industrial Revolution are lit during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Rings representing both the Olympics and the Industrial Revolution are lit during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: The Red Arrows disappear over London ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games at the Olympic Park on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Fireworks are set off during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Paul McCartney performs during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's Sir Chris Hoy carries the Union Flag during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Tony Marshall/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Serbia's Novak Djokovic holds his counties flag at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony . Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the opening of the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Sir Clive Woodward at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic Flame burns after it was lit at the end of the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony . Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius waves at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic Flame burns after it was lit at the end of the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's team parade around the stadium led by flag bearer Chris Hoy during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Great Britain's team enter the stadium led by flag bearer Chris Hoy during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mohammed Ali is helped to his feet as takes hold of the Olympic flag during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
A performer dressed as a dove during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Paul McCartney is shown live on the big screens at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jamaica's Usain Bolt carries his countries flag at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Jamaica's Usain Bolt is mobbed by the other athletes at the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks are set off over the Olympic Stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Sir Clive Woodward and members of the Great Britain Olympic team parade around the stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks at the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics Games at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks are set off during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Adam Davy/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Steve Redgrave, right, holds up the Olympic flame after entering the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Cameron Spencer, Pool)
Steve Redgrave, right, holds up the Olympic flame after entering the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Cameron Spencer, Pool)
Steve Redgrave carries the Olympic flame into the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Cameron Spencer, Pool)
Steve Redgrave, right, holds the Olympic torch after entering the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, Pool)
Fireworks light up over the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Britain's Chris Hoy carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Fireworks illuminate the sky over Olympic Stadium during Opening Ceremonies at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Fireworks light up over the stadium during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Saturday, July 28, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Great Britain's Chris Hoy carries the national flag as confetti surrounds the team during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Crowds the fireworks after the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony was screened at the BT Live Event at Victoria Park, Hackney PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS . Photo credit should read: Steve Parsons/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic torch is carried by seven young athletes during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Muhammad Ali and his wife Lonnie during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Dave Thompson/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Fireworks are set off over the Olympic Stadium during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony in the Olympic Park, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: David Davies/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
The Olympic flame is lit during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Stephen Pond/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27: Sratford locals (bottom left) gather to watch the Opening Ceremony on television outside the Olympic Park on July 27, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Fireworks during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Sir Steve Redgrave hands the torch to young torch bearers Callum Airlie, Jordan Duckitt, Desiree Henry, Katie Kirk, Cameron MacRitchie, Aidan Reynolds and Adelle Tracey during the London Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 27, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Queen Elizabeth II (left) makes a speech at the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday July 28, 2012. See PA story OLYMPICS Ceremony. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire. EDITORIAL USE ONLY

Thank heavens for the thin red line of these Olympics, the soldiers who brought instant reassurance under the threat of a security meltdown and now, understandably enough, are seen as a better short-term option than cardboard cut-out spectators in the vital matter of filling the empty spaces.

Yesterday they reported for duty at the hall of gymnastics – one of the sites suffering a killing lack of that oxygen supplied by evidence of a home nation's Olympic passion.



The supply of tickets has, of course, always been a pivotal issue in any sense that these Games indeed belong to the people of London and the wider nation rather than the moveable city state of the Olympic movement and the favoured of the corporate world.



Yesterday morning the Aquatics Centre – another place where the huge disparity between the packed cheaper seats of those who entered the ticket lottery hoping for a close-up, flesh-and-blood view of the event that has made so many demands on their taxes, and their working convenience, and the swathes of empty places reserved for the Olympic family and the sponsors has been unacceptably large – did not benefit from any input of emergency fans.



It meant that Rebecca Adlington, the double gold-winning heroine of Beijing, had to negotiate her tricky heat in the 400m freestyle in front of a dismaying number of unoccupied seats in the most expensive section poolside. In the people's zone it was inflamed, shoulder-to-shoulder support – and new questions had to be asked about how many potential live fans were back home tuning into television.



In Beijing there was a tendency to sneer at the programming of supporters, the hordes of favoured party members being bussed deep into the city's suburbs, armed with their officially distributed flags. But one desired effect was achieved: it was the impression, however superficial, that beach volleyball was almost as compelling as the historic 100-metre dash of Usain Bolt.



London's Olympic leader, Sebastian Coe, yesterday spoke of urgent efforts to remedy the problem and the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: "I was at the Beijing Games in 2008 and one of the lessons that we took away is that full stadia create the best atmosphere, it's best for the athletes and more fun for the spectators."



There is no question about his basic point but there is a huge moral imperative that does not appear to have been at the heart of the ticket strategy here in London. It is either a celebration for as many of the people as possible or it isn't. This should not, surely, be balanced against any overpowering requirement to provide the corporate world with more privileges than the benefits of their commercial involvement.



There were not too many corporate suites on the roadsides of the Olympic road race at the weekend when Mark Cavendish battled unavailingly for his first Olympic medal.



What we did have, though, was the strongest evidence of the desire of ordinary people to be involved in the drama of the Olympics.



Calling in the military, admirably though they have conducted themselves in their other duties, was the recognition that this yearning has been quite seriously neglected. Lord Coe has threatened to "name and shame" the offending sponsors. But then perhaps some of the blame, like the tickets, should be distributed a little nearer home.

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