Three Olympic reforms to end the scandal of empty seats

Empty seats during the Womens Football, First Round, Group F match at the City of Coventry Stadium, Coventry. Credit: PA

The scandal of empty seats at the Olympics not only robs the public of tickets, it also robs the athletes of the atmosphere their years of hard work deserve. It leaves some of the best seats in the house shamefully vacant. A ramshackle, inherited system makes such an outrage inevitable. According to some, the problem can be solved.

  • Change 1: The whole fiasco is being called a "ticketing" issue. The shocking fact is that tickets are not even involved. Members of the so-called "Olympics family" (officials, athletes and media) do not need to show tickets. They are simply "accredited". It is a major problem that these "family members" do not need to book a seat, phone ahead or let organisers know in any way whether they will attend or not. That makes it almost impossible for LOCOG to know in advance and therefore "recycle" the seats for public use. There is now pressure for that to be changed.

Empty seats for the hockey game at the Riverbank Arena in East London. Credit: ITV News/Sue Saville
  • Change 2: If you look back at previous Olympics, you find that these seats often remain unoccupied in the early stages of the Games. That's because there are fewer finals and more heats in the early stages. It is also because athletes are too busy training, preparing and competing. Later in the Olympics, when many are knocked out, the situation changes. If this lack of occupancy is predictable, could it not have been allowed for. A second important change would be to learn from earlier experience - and have far fewer "family" seats early on.

Empty seats at the basketball arena. Credit: ITV News/Simon Harris

Some also say there should be ticket sales booths near Olympic venues, allowing seats to be "recycled" into public tickets even at the last minute. However, today I was told that LOCOG has ruled that out. The booths at venues will remain as "pick-up points" for tickets bought online.

With that great opening ceremony we have already shown that we are able and willing to transform the Olympics - maybe the changes should now go further.