Vacant Olympic Seats to Be Filled by Military, Teachers

The organizing committee of the London Olympic Games has said unfilled seats at competitions may go to the military, teachers and students.  There have been complaints about empty seats during the opening days of the 2012 Games.

The sight of empty seats at Olympic sports venues is a sensitive issue after hundreds of thousands of people failed to get tickets in an initial public lottery.

London Organizing Committee Chairman Sebastian Coe says tickets are being distributed to soldiers and others to fill those seats. He said no one would object to free tickets for public servants.

"If the military are there, I do not think there is single person out there that thinks it is shambolic asking the military, given the way they have stepped up to the plate in the last few weeks, if they are in a rest period, whether they would like to watch sport. I do not think it is shambolic to ask local teachers and students, that we had always planned to do this anyway, whether they want to come in and see some of that sport and this is fine. This is not something that we should be extrapolating dramatically from the first day of an Olympic Games," he said.

Soldiers sit in the empty seats held by the IOC as they watch the womens gymnastics qualification in the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 29, 2012. /Reuters Soldiers sit in the empty seats held by the IOC as they watch the women's gymnastics qualification in the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 29, 2012. /Reuters

Rows of seats were left empty at a number of competitions held Saturday, including basketball, gymnastics, swimming and tennis.

Coe said missing spectators were mostly officials with busy schedules and seats would be filled in coming days as the games move through preliminary rounds.

In better news for the Games' host, Britain won its first medal, with Lizzie Armitstead winning the silver in women's cycling.

Despite gray weather fans from all over the world came out for the free Olympic event. "Brits are all quite about taking part, so we do not actually mind as long as our team is trying hard. But obviously we do like to get medals, especially at home," said one woman.

"And even along here, for a Sunday you know at 12 o'clock, it's quite empty now, but then everyone appears from nowhere and starts waving flags and cheering and getting into the spirit of things, so it is great. We have met loads of people just sitting on the corner, chatting. We're going to some other events this afternoon so everybody's getting involved. It is great," said another woman.

China has won the most gold medals and the highest number of overall medals with the United States second. 

China's Wu Minxia and He Zi won the first diving gold, perhaps a sign of what is to come. At the Beijing Olympics, four years ago, China won seven of the eight gold medals for diving.

Meanwhile, the United States struck a new record with Kimberley Rhode winning the gold for skeet shooting. That makes her the first American to take an individual sport medal in five consecutive games.

VOA News / Jul. 30, 2012 08:01 KST