The papers today are full of empty seats at the Olympics. This morning, a Downing Street spokeswoman tried to take a glass-half-full approach, saying the empty seats were ‘disappointing’, but adding that the Prime Minister was ‘satisfied’ that Locog was working to resolve the issue. Locog carried out a review at the weekend which found that the seats were in accredited areas rather than those allocated to sponsors. The accredited areas are set aside for ‘members of the Olympic family’, an unpleasant phrase that denotes representatives of the IOC and of the sporting federations, as well as coaches, athletes and athletes’ families.
The different options available are:
- Give the seats to young people from local schools and colleges who are already in the park as part of the Key Seats programme.
- Releasing tickets for sale to the public when it becomes clear the seats will not be used.
- Allowing troops, who are already accredited, to occupy the empty seats.
- Upgrading members of the public who have seats in other parts of a venue to the accredited seats, which are often in the prime areas with the best view.
- A Wimbledon-style ‘resale’ system where the seats of spectators who have left the venue are re-allocated to others at a knock-down price.
Locog says it has already re-sold 3,000 tickets after speaking to accredited people who had not used their seats. But as I blogged yesterday, it needs to clamp down on this as soon as possible as a critical mass of photos of empty seats has already been reached.
The problem for ministers is that they do not have any official influence over this matter. Jeremy Hunt made this clear when he appeared on the World at One a few minutes ago. He said:
‘We want to be completely upfront with the public, this is a negotiation, we don’t have a right to demand these back, in fact contractually these seats do belong to the International Sports Federations and to the IOC. But, we got 3,000 back last night, including 600 for the gymnastics.’
Meanwhile, the Number 10 spokeswoman repeatedly said today that ‘this is a matter for Locog’, although when asked whether the government was powerless to change the seating situation, added: ‘We have influence: it’s the government.’ Whatever that influence is, it’s in the government’s interest to exert it as powerfully as possible: the public is unlikely to discriminate between ministers and Locog officials when apportioning blame for those empty chairs.Tags: Olympics, UK politics