Organisers Blame 'Russian Mentality' For The Banks Of Empty Seats Seen At Sochi

Empty sochi seatsREUTERS/Issei KatoA spectator sits among empty seats before the start of the women’s 3000 meters speed skating race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, February 9, 2014.

The organisers of the Winter Olympics in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi yesterday said they had sold 92 per cent of the tickets available for the first day of main competition but admitted thousands had not made it on time due to tight security.

The first day of medal competition on Saturday saw reasonable crowds but some banks of empty seats could still be seen for most disciplines.

However the spokeswoman for the organising committee, Alexandra Kosterina, told reporters that 92 per cent of the available tickets for Saturday had been sold and “we are happy with that”.

“We saw pretty full stadia. We had a good turnout and hope it will get even better as the Olympics go on.”

She confirmed that thousands of spectators had not made it to their event on time, or at all, due to the tough security controls that created long queues.

“People need to understand what time to travel and you need to come in advance,” she said.

She admitted that “we had some problems due to the Russian mentality of arriving as close as possible to the start of an event and never in advance.

“So we had some people who were late for the Games.”

Asked what the real capacity was on Saturday taking into account those who bought tickets but did not show up, she gave a figure of 81 per cent. She said around 40,000 people had bought tickets for Saturday’s events.

The Sochi Winter Olympic Games, a project championed by President Vladimir Putin, are under unprecedented scrutiny after a litany of concerns about Russia’s suitability as a host.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams praised the start to the Games. “There was great action and great venues. The athletes are at the centre, as it should be.”

Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.

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