/ Travel & Leisure

Who’s to blame for empty seats at the Games?

As the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has released 3,000 tickets originally reserved for officials who failed to show up, who is really to blame for the rows of empty seats?

As far as I’m concerned, the empty seats aren’t Locog’s fault. In fact, I don’t even blame the Games’ sponsors – they’ve paid for their tickets, so I’d say that gives them the right not to use them. After all, it’s their money they’re wasting.

However, the position is different for any tickets that have been given to Olympic officials and their families for free. If they fail to show up to the events for which they hold tickets, I’d consider billing them for the full cost of a ticket. With valuable track-side seats, that’d soon encourage ticket holders to turn up.

Getting tough on no-shows

As for any seats that remain empty, if I were in charge, I’d give ticket-holders up to an hour’s grace to allow for traffic hold-ups and other delays. After that, why not either allow ticket-holders who did turn up to move forward into these premium seats, or sell the tickets at the Olympic site on a first-come, first-served basis.

So far though, I’d say Locog has played it about right. They’re currently making tickets available when they can – for example, tickets returned by officials are being made available on the London 2012 website to buy every day after midnight, for that day’s events.

So, if you check the website after midnight tonight (Tuesday 31st July), you could get tickets for Tuesday’s events. That’s not much good if you need to travel from areas outside the south east or if you need to book time off work, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

Another way to get your hands on tickets is to buy those that have been returned by spectators who have left the Olympic site early. You need to be on-site to buy these, so it’s most useful for those who have day-passes already.

Key Seats programme

Other tickets are being allocated to young people, locals, and those who have played an active part in their local community under the ‘Key Seats’ programme. This includes spare seats being allocated to those off-duty soldiers who have been drafted in to deal with site security.

There’s been justified criticism of Locog’s ticketing arrangements in the run-up to the Games. On this occasion though, I think they’ve done all they can under the circumstances. If you were in charge for a day, how would you deal with all the officials who didn’t show up and the numerous empty seats?


Blame lies with LOCOG. Apparently this sort of thing happens every Games during the early rounds, So why couldn’t LOCOG have been on the ball and ask organisations to return wanted tickets in advance. Bad planning.

I agree with William, above, and also with many parts of the intro: if the tickets have been PAID for then it’s up to the purchaser what they do and if they’re daft enough to waste their tickets, so be it.

But I suspect a bit of a backfire on a well known marketing strategy: it’s very well known that for popular events the organisers or ticket agents make it **seem** as if tickets are almost sold out pretty much form the day they go on sale, to encourage waverers to make their purchase. I strongly suspect that LOCOG used this marketing ploy but that the demand for tickets, at the prices being charged, simply hasn’t bee there, so they’re left with the seats empty.

I’ve no proof of this of course, but I’ve seen it happen at a great many other events and I think it’s likely it’s happened here.

I agree with Dave D – it’s a real shame but if someone has paid for a ticket then it’s theirs to do with what they will, even if they do choose to waste it. I think one of the huge problems with giving things away for free, however, is that people don’t feel invested and therefore are often more likely to waste something.

I spoke to an events organiser a while ago, who was charging £20 for day tickets to a conference. I asked her why it was so cheap and she said “well, we want people to come along, so run it at a loss, but we can’t give tickets away for free or people will just sign up and not turn up.” It’s a sad thing, but one of the reasons why it’s good to charge *something* for a ticket, just to give people more incentive to use it.

John M says:
31 July 2012

Valid points about those that have paid for a ticket, but…
surely the vast majority of the empty seats cannot be attributed to members of the public that we’re lucky enough to get a ticket for a venue.
It was very sad to read about the family who watched the swimming outside the arena in the rain, while hundreds/thousands of seats were left empty for the entire duration of the session – I can’t believe the organisers didn’t put a strategy in place for what has been a big Olympic problem in the past.

It’s also a shame the ticket website can’t be updated to just list those tickets which are available day by day, instead of having to troll through the different sports.

Carl Hubbers says:
31 July 2012

A friends work is a sponsor and they have been given the “hard word” to ensure their ticket holders turn up to the events they have tickets for. According to my friend this isn’t the issue as all recipients of free sponsor tickets are extremely keen.

The issue might be with dignitaries not using their allocation. Part of the problem could be that a few were publicly humiliated when they tried to turn their tickets over for a tidy profit before the games. Another issue is these tickets are inside secure zones so they might not be able to give away or sell spare tickets.

What ever the reason is it’s sad to see empty seats/stands on television. Especially when you see how engaged and excited the crowds are in the stands that are full.

olympian cloud says:
31 July 2012

The British taxpayers are big contributors to the Olympic games – and it is unacceptable that there is no accountability and no responsibility for the empty seats. For each empty seat there is a broken heart of someone refused that seat. I would suggest to everyone to check on the price of tickets for so called returned “empty seats”, their prices are exhorbitant- often in the £400+ and out of reach from most of the ordinary tax payers. Too many tickets were so expensive, that it was out of reach, £1000 for themopening ceremony? I feel sad that the British public paid and will pay back debts for years to come, for what result? For the majority of ticket request, a rejection on an Olympian scale i.e. no ticket. And yes, we also pay for the BBC licence, so that too is not free ciewing. I checked the tickets for High Park, London, where the big screens are. Free? Please, look at the site, you might get something for over £300! We, the taxpayers, the ordinary public are just milking cash cows to provide the best seats to unknown people who do not even have the decency of giving back their tickets which often were freebies at our expenses. There is zero transparency. The people thinking that all is well in the best possible world are not candid – they have tickets – I bet.

I was there at the Olympics. The box office is reselling tickets of those that have been handed back in. However, as far as I’m aware if there are empty seats from people who just haven’t turned up, they’re not being offered.

But as far as I’m concerned – if the seats are empty for a certain amount of time, they should be offered to those in the Park. There were thousands there, all very keen to get in the events. I was watching the swimming on the big screen and I could see loads of empty seats on screen – I would have paid to get in if that was possible. They should announce on the screen that a limited number of seats had become available, and get those seats filled. That might cause a mad rush, but a race to get a ticket is surely in the spirit of the event 😉

ANON says:
3 August 2012

My other half is a “Games Maker” volunteer.

He rang this morning for a quick chat – first time he’s had time to cll since the games started.

Apparently games maker volunteers have been told to use up some of the empty seats but that they must not, under any circumstances, be seen in a seat wearing their uniforms as that would give away that they are being used to make it seem that more seats are being occupied.