Tuesday, 12 August 2008
The opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics was a spectacular show. The entire choreography was flawlessly executed, with each minute detail falling in place to showcase China’s might and prowess to the world.
But people could notice an embarrassing factor even at the most spectacular show on the planet – empty seats.
Officially all the events are sold out. According to a BBC report, Wang Wei, a senior official with the Beijing organising committee (Bocog), said empty seats was not a problem unique to Beijing and other Olympics had experienced similar problems. This spokesman blamed the weather for being too hot and too humid and then too rainy.
The Chinese authorities have tried to address the problem of empty stands by hiring volunteers, dressing them up in yellow and filling the empty seats to act as cheerleaders. They have been given instructions to cheer for both teams to improve the atmosphere in the stands.
Some people claim that many of the corporate seats are empty because the corporate tickets were handed out only the day before to prevent blackmarketeering and busy executives can’t make it to the events at such short notice.
Is there some other explanation to why the stands are empty? Do the local Chinese see the sports events as strange and Western?
Do the Chinese people find the idea of paying hefty prices for attending mass sports events too strange? Are the tickets too expensive?
Beijing Olympic Tickets Terribly Expensive
For example, tickets for softball started at $100 for pool play and go up to $400+ for the gold medal game. In Athens, the same tickets were going for about $10 and $40 respectively. The tickets for the Men’s single tennis finals in 2008, are priced at 545€ plus 29€ for delivery charges. According the People's Daily in China, the average monthly income in Beijing is 227 US dollars. Domestic sports fans would definitely find the ticket prices rather expensive.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic record for ticket sales was 91% of available tickets breaking the previous record for ticket sales of more than 82% set in Atlanta.
Rumours of terrorism drove crowds away from the preliminary competitions of the games in Athens, but attendance picked up soon.
What about the foreign sport fans in Beijing? Is it too difficult and expensive getting visas, finding accommodation, getting tickets or are spectators choosing to watch events on TV from the comfort of their homes?