OLYMPICS / Barcelona 1992: Corporate cop-out

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE ORGANISERS say that virtually every event has been sold out, but the television pictures are showing row upon row of empty seats. Fu Mingxia, the wondrous 14-year-old Chinese diver, put her sport on a different plane in front of a stadium barely a quarter full - despite its fantastic setting high in the hills overlookig Barcelona.

When Ge Li, a Chinese gymnast, put together a brilliant high-bar programme in the men's team gynmastics, he did so in front of eight rows of prime - and expensively purchased - seats, of which just four were occupied.

And yet there was a steady stream of people without tickets outside the diving pool trying to do business with the touts.

The reason? The old enemy of the sports spectator - corporate buying, according to the organising committee's spokesman, Pedro Palacios, who explained that companies had bought up blocks of tickets, but that the people who had received them had simply not used them.

None of which helps the athletes, as Palacios admitted. 'It is very encouraging for the athletes to see the stadiums full. There is nothing worse than looking at empty seats.'