Frustration Growing Over Ticket Sales, Empty Seats and Venue Planning at London Aquatic Center

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By Steven V. Selthoffer, Chief European Columnist

LONDON, England, July 31. DAILY photos in Europe have revealed and sources have reported that hundreds of seats have been empty at the swimming venue despite huge global demand for tickets over the course of the past two years. The public anger is spreading from LOCOG to FINA and elsewhere as swimmers, coaches and media have noticed that the Olympic Family and the FINA executive, VIP and national federation chief's sections have been noticeably empty during prelims.

CNN International has reported today in their headline news article, “Return Your Tickets Please,” that with controversy brewing over empty seats, London 2012 organizers are asking sport federations to return their tickets. CNN also reported that Irish Olympic swimmer, Barry Murphy stated, “Hundreds of empty seats again in the Aquatic Center. My parents would have given an arm and a leg to get in.”

More than 1,500 other stories have been filed by the media in the past 72 hours with headlines including, “Empty seats spoil swimming spectacle,” “Kiwis shocked at empty seats,” “Empty seats prompt investigation,” “Vast swathes of empty seats at swimming…” and so on.

This is especially disconcerting for swimmers, when the vast majority will swim only in prelims and their families, coaches, and friends have been denied tickets to see a once-in-a-lifetime performance for many of the athletes. It appears for many, the Olympics are becoming an opportunity denied.

Venue Planning Questioned
Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the London Olympic aquatics center has a capacity for only 17,500 seats- far below the actual demand for tickets.

Increasing the seating capacity, an outside venue… others are already talking about it.

Witnessing the opening ceremonies, the limited swimming venue capacity, the huge demand for tickets and empty seats, insiders are already looking forward to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 before the conclusion of the first week of swimming competition in London.

Despite the system software designed to control the venue lighting that eliminates shadows for HD TV, it will be unconscionable to think, that against the backdrop of the spectacular Rio de Janeiro mountains, the city skyline, harbour and beaches that FINA will host the swimming venue indoors.

In order to reduce the problems associated with London, now, a modern, open, partially tented, outside stadium swim complex with seating for 20,000-25,000 for Rio will hopefully be considered to meet global ticket sale demands.

Jacco Verhaeren, National Coach, NED, previously stated, “Swimming is an outside sport… It's where meets should be held.” Rio will be the perfect venue.

There is no excuse for being absent, after seven years of planning and a lifetime of training by the swimmers, when the moment for the events has arrived. All sport executives and national federation chiefs should be in attendance. Meetings can be scheduled at other times. It is all about supporting the athletes and not about personal comfort and shopping. (Or at least they should return all of their tickets and let others support the athletes).

But, now, back to the swimmers and what we came for… It just gets better from here. In the next event…

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