Beijing Struggles to Fill Stadiums

Sold-out games are full of empty seats
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 13, 2008 11:18 AM CDT
Rows of empty seats are seen during the women's first round group F soccer match at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Tianjin on August 12, 2008.   (AFP/Getty)
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(Newser) – Olympic organizers have a problem: No one’s going to their sold-out events. Foot traffic is sparse in Olympic Park, and empty seats have abounded at early events. The panicked Chinese have organized yellow-shirted, state-trained “cheer-squads” to fill the holes, but that hasn’t been enough for the IOC, which is prodding Beijing to let more local residents in.

It’s an odd problem, given that the record 6.8 million tickets sold out, with huge crowds mobbing sellers. Many empty seats were likely part of the huge ticket blocks given out to Chinese companies, sponsors and VIPs. But others may be attributed to China’s tightened visa restrictions. Beijing hotels say they’re having a below-average August because foreigners can’t get into the country. “Last year the hotel was full,” one receptionist lamented.