LONDON, England ● The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics will see fewer empty seats than London with Brazilian organisers saying on Friday a plan will be in place to avoid the problem that soured the start of the Games in the British capital.
The issue of unfilled stadiums has proved to be a headache for London Games organisers who embarked on a complex ticketing system more than a year ago in an attempt to avoid the gaps in the stands seen at the Beijing Games four years ago.
However, thousands of seats reserved for sponsors, international federations and athletes’ families were unused in the first days of the Games forcing organisers to bring in volunteers and soldiers to fill them.
“We will be able to have a much better result in Rio than London has had so far,” Rio chief executive Leonardo Gryner told reporters. “We are trying to reduce radically the problem of empty seats.”
London organisers have asked those who do not intend to use their seats to give them up, and have trimmed the officials’ seating in an effort to make more tickets available to the public who are desperately trying to get their hands on tickets.
But one in five of the accredited seats remained empty on Thursday.
“It is not a problem exclusively in London,” said Gryner. “It is a challenge for all organising committees.
“We have a programme called ‘fill the stadiums’. We have some ideas to keep stadiums full at all times. There are several mechanisms that will be put into place.”
“We hope to be better than London but it is not an easy challenge,” said Gryner, who did not give any precise details of how Rio would tackle the problem.
Empty seats, however, looks to be a problem to tackle further down the road as construction delays and questions over costs have hit the first Games to be staged in South America. Brazil will also host the 2014 football World Cup.
Organisers declined to speculate on the overall Games-related budget that in London has topped 9.0 billion pounds ($14.04 billion).
Rio mayor Eduardo Paes said there was not yet a final budget. “We cannot give an overall cost because some projects are still being defined,” said Paes, in a live link from Rio.
“We can only disclose the cost of the Olympics when everything is ready. Everything depends on the projects.”
Brazil’s economy has stalled as weak manufacturing activity, financial contagion from the euro zone and souring investor sentiment take the shine off what had been one of the world’s most dynamic emerging markets when Rio was awarded the Olympics in 2009.