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Olympic athletes frustrated by empty seats at Games

Updated: July 30, 2012 11:39AM

LONDON – What if they had an Olympics and wouldn’t let anybody in?

As bizarre as that question is, it’s one of the big stories of the London Games so far. And if organizers don’t do something about it soon, it will become these Games’ legacy, right up there with Atlanta’s lost bus drivers in 1996.

According to the London Telegraph, parents and friends of swimmers from Singapore and Sweden have not been able to get inside the aquatic center to see their athletes compete.

Indian tennis player Mahesh Bhupathi took his anger to Twitter on Saturday:

“Been trying for 6 hours now to buy my wife a ticket to watch me play tomorrow. Still no luck, and the grounds here feel empty. ABSURD!!!’’

Local Games organizers say corporate sponsors are to blame. They gobbled up most of the expensive tickets and haven’t been showing up at the events. The result is venues that feel half empty or worse.

Even though Sebastian Coe, the chairman of the London Olympic Organizing Committee, said at a press briefing that venues were “stuffed to the gullets,’’ he promised empty seats would be filled by military members and their families, as well as by students and teachers.

But that hasn’t eased the minds of the athletes.

‘’It is so confusing for everyone,’’ IOC member Gunilla Lindberg told the Telegraph. “Parents keep calling the athletes, no one knows where the tickets are and it is not very good preparation for the athletes to be so stressed about it.’’

A computer snafu has made it difficult for parents and friends of athletes to get tickets. Every athlete is allowed to buy two tickets for each event he or she competes in. Because of the computer problems, tickets were to be distributed at each venue, rather than online.

But when people tried to pick up their tickets, officials wouldn’t let them in. Staff hadn’t been told of the computer breakdown. That has led to empty seats, even at such high-demand events as swimming.

A made-for-TV Olympics needs full arenas for atmosphere. Not a good way to start.

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