James Lawton: Empty seats betray idea of the people's Games

This should not be about providing the corporates with more privileges

Thank heavens for the thin red line of these Olympics, the soldiers who brought instant reassurance under the threat of a security meltdown and now, understandably enough, are seen as a better short-term option than cardboard cut-out spectators in the vital matter of filling the empty spaces.

Yesterday they reported for duty at the hall of gymnastics – one of the sites suffering a killing lack of that oxygen supplied by evidence of a home nation's Olympic passion.

The supply of tickets has, of course, always been a pivotal issue in any sense that these Games indeed belong to the people of London and the wider nation rather than the moveable city state of the Olympic movement and the favoured of the corporate world.

Yesterday morning the Aquatics Centre – another place where the huge disparity between the packed cheaper seats of those who entered the ticket lottery hoping for a close-up, flesh-and-blood view of the event that has made so many demands on their taxes, and their working convenience, and the swathes of empty places reserved for the Olympic family and the sponsors has been unacceptably large – did not benefit from any input of emergency fans.

It meant that Rebecca Adlington, the double gold-winning heroine of Beijing, had to negotiate her tricky heat in the 400m freestyle in front of a dismaying number of unoccupied seats in the most expensive section poolside. In the people's zone it was inflamed, shoulder-to-shoulder support – and new questions had to be asked about how many potential live fans were back home tuning into television.

In Beijing there was a tendency to sneer at the programming of supporters, the hordes of favoured party members being bussed deep into the city's suburbs, armed with their officially distributed flags. But one desired effect was achieved: it was the impression, however superficial, that beach volleyball was almost as compelling as the historic 100-metre dash of Usain Bolt.

London's Olympic leader, Sebastian Coe, yesterday spoke of urgent efforts to remedy the problem and the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: "I was at the Beijing Games in 2008 and one of the lessons that we took away is that full stadia create the best atmosphere, it's best for the athletes and more fun for the spectators."

There is no question about his basic point but there is a huge moral imperative that does not appear to have been at the heart of the ticket strategy here in London. It is either a celebration for as many of the people as possible or it isn't. This should not, surely, be balanced against any overpowering requirement to provide the corporate world with more privileges than the benefits of their commercial involvement.

There were not too many corporate suites on the roadsides of the Olympic road race at the weekend when Mark Cavendish battled unavailingly for his first Olympic medal.

What we did have, though, was the strongest evidence of the desire of ordinary people to be involved in the drama of the Olympics.

Calling in the military, admirably though they have conducted themselves in their other duties, was the recognition that this yearning has been quite seriously neglected. Lord Coe has threatened to "name and shame" the offending sponsors. But then perhaps some of the blame, like the tickets, should be distributed a little nearer home.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York