Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Security checks keep 10% of ticket holders away

Officials face embarrassment as empty seats abound on day one of Putin's Olympics

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The Independent Online

The organisers of the Sochi Winter Olympics have admitted that over 10% of ticket holders failed to make it to their events on day one because the security queues were so long.

There was a reasonable turnout on Saturday for the first day of the most expensive Olympics in history, but several events saw banks of empty seats.

And Alexandra Kosterina, a spokeswoman for the Sochi 2014 organising committee, confirmed that lengthy security controls had delayed thousands of spectators from attending Saturday’s events.

Kosterina blamed the attendance problems on “the Russian mentality of arriving as close as possible to the start of an event and never in advance”.

“People need to understand what time to travel and you need to come in advance,” she said.

According to official figures, 92% of available tickets for the first day of the Games were sold, but the average attendance was just 81% as spectators struggled to make it through security. Around 40,000 people bought tickets for Saturday’s events.

The underwhelming home crowd seemed to affect Russia’s athletes as the host nation suffered a disappointing first day at the Winter Olympics. Russia failed to pick up a single medal, with biathlete Anton Shipulin and moguls skier Regina Rakhimova among several hopefuls to come up short.

The build-up to the Sochi Olympics has been dogged by security concerns. Two deadly terrorist attacks in nearby Volgograd last month put the Sochi organisers on red alert, and last week several national Olympic associations reported receiving threats against their athletes.

However, International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams praised the opening day of the Games. “There was great action and great venues,” he said.