London Olympics organizers have launched an investigation after blocks of empty seats at supposedly “sold out” events led to public outrage, the Associated Press reported.
Hundreds of the best seats at highly sought-after events, including the swimming, tennis and gymnastics, were glaringly vacant Saturday, during the first full morning of Olympic competition.
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While the prime viewing spots – mostly set aside for Olympic family members, sponsors, officials and the media – were empty, an estimated 1 million people lined the route of the free outdoor cycling event.
A spokesperson for the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) conceded that it appeared the empty seats were in “accredited seating areas,” and said organizers were in the process of finding out “who should have been in the seats and why they weren't there."
Committee chairman Sebastian Coe said organizers might “name and shame” the corporate sponsors responsible for the no shows if steps are not taken to get real fans in the seats, the London Telegraph reported.
LOCOG has already faced criticism for the number of seats being given to corporate sponsors, Olympic officials and VIP guests. But sponsors Coca-Cola and Visa said they used promotional offers to give away most of their seating quotas to the public.
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After hundreds of vacant seats were noticed at the Aquatics Centre during the sold-out showdown between Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley, angry fans used social media sites to vent their frustrations.
One user joked that Olympic organizers were making the software company Adobe an official sponsor, so that it could Photoshop in the crowds.