Lord Coe claims Olympic venues are 'stuffed to the gunwales'

Sebastian Coe responds to row over empty seats in Olympic venues

Sebastian Coe has insisted Olympic venues were “stuffed to the gunwales” today, as he sought to defuse the row over swathes of empty seats at ‘sold out’ Olympic events

There were more noticeable gaps at the Aquatics Centre this morning where British medal-hope Rebecca Adlington won her 400-metre free-style swimming heat.

Corporate sponsors today insisted they had used their full allocations.

Most sponsors, which include McDonalds, Coca Cola and Adidas, said they had purchased their tickets and given them away to staff or customers through special offers and competitions.

Suspicion has now fallen on members of the wider ‘Olympic Family’, made up of national sporting federations, athletes and media. One corporate sponsor said that Olympic Family members had been allocated four or five tickets for the same time and had to decide which event to turn up to.

“There are people with tickets for five venues at the same time,” he said.

Mark Adams, of the International Olympic Committee, said those who failed to turn up were sports organisations from around the world, the media, "a handful of sponsors" and others.

"It's completely wrong to say this is a sponsor issue," he said.

Locog launched an urgent inquiry yesterday after hundreds of empty seats were visible at sold-out events including s gymnastics, handball, volleyball, badminton and basketball. But Lord Coe, chairman of London 2012, sought to play down the row at a press conference this morning.

"Let's put this in perspective. Those venues are stuffed to the gunwales. The public are in there,” he said.

"There are tens of thousands of people at this moment within the accredited family who are trying to figure out what their day looks like, where they're going to be asked to go to. Frankly just working out how you're going to divide your time."

He added that some 150 students and teachers from the local area were brought in to fill empty seats today and an extra 1,000 tickets were sold to try to fill venues.

British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan added: "We welcome the fact this morning that Jeremy Hunt has taken responsibility and announced that he is going to lead an inquiry with Locog and Seb (Lord Coe) to work on this.”

Matt and Amanda Casson, from London, watched this morning's swimming heats at the Aquatics Centre - including Adlington's victory in her heat.

The pair said it was disappointing there were noticeable gaps of empty seats in the centre.

Mr Casson, 36, said: "It's really disappointing. They should do something like they do at Wimbledon where at a certain time they put them on sale to the general public, just re-sell them.

"Or even if they upgraded people downwards, closer to the front, to fill them, that would look better."

Mari Fotherby travelled from Cirencester with husband Andy and daughters Catrin and Hana, 26 and 23.

She said: "We were surprised at the number of empty seats.

"I'm not sure what the reason is, I just wish there were more tickets available to the public.

"We were lucky to get the swimming - this session - and the cycling, but we were the only people we knew.”

Eight per cent of tickets went to sponsors while 75 per cent were "in the hands of the public," Lord Coe added.

“I don't think you will be seeing this as an issue long-term into the Games.”

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the empty seats were "very disappointing".

He added a system had been introduced for these Olympics similar to the one used at Wimbledon, where people coming out of the stadium handed on their tickets so the seats could be made available to other people.

"So we are trying a lot of innovations, it's a shame this happened, but we are going to do everything we can to make sure we fill up these stadia," he said.

A British Airways spokesman said: "The vast majority of the tickets we purchased were given away many months ago to the public through competitions and promotions or used as rewards for our employees for great pieces of work or excellent customer service."

In a statement Adidas said: “Adidas has rigorous plans in place to make sure our allocation of tickets is used and we will continue to ensure that remains the case throughout the Games.”

While BP added: "We have a ticket allocation for our guests and in the event we have tickets left over we are offering them back to LOCOG for resale. We are making every effort to make sure non of our seats are empty at events we are booked into as its important we support our athletes in their bids to win medals."

What people are saying about the empty seats...

"Empty seats at the olympics?!! And my parents can't get tickets to watch me swim?! Ridiculous."

Faye Sultan, 17-year-old Kuwaiti swimmer.

"Anyone who is lucky enough to have tickets to the Games should either use them or give them up.”

Shadow Olympics minister Dame Tessa Jowell.

"It's really disappointing. They should do something like they do at Wimbledon where at a certain time they put them on sale to the general public, just re-sell them. Or even if they upgraded people downwards, closer to the front, to fill them, that would look better."

Matt Casson from London at this morning’s swimming heats.

 "I just wish there were more tickets available to the public. We were lucky to get the swimming - this session - and the cycling, but we were the only people we knew who managed to get swimming tickets."

Mari Fotherby from Cirencester.

"I think it's terrible, especially when so many people want a ticket. There should be less seats for officials."

Sharon Beers from Portsmouth in the Olympic Park

"It's very disappointing to see this, particularly as we all tried so hard to get our tickets. It doesn't help the atmosphere at all."

Jane Smith, from London at the Basketball.

“Rain causing real problems at Olympic venues. It's washing the labels off complimentary champagne bottles left on empty corporate seats.”

Danny Baker

“These empty corporate sponsor seats at swimming etc are a total bloody disgrace. Sort it out, Lord Coe.”

Piers Morgan

 "We all like to see a full house. The pool is one of the most sought-after venues and tickets are hard to come by.” 

David Sparkes, chief executive of British Swimming

“It's completely wrong to say this is a sponsors issue. Those who have failed to turn up include sports organisations from around the world, the media, and a handful of sponsors.”

Mark Adams, of the International Olympic Committee.

“Locog needs to fill those empty seats urgently. Simply not good enough that this is happening while thousands want to be there.”

Andrew Adonis

“They should have made more tickets available to children and young people, to inspire the next generation. Our school only got 15 tickets.”

Catherine Nixon, a 24-year-old schoolteacher from Harrow, north London.

“The British public and also former medallists would have loved to have seats.”

Peter Radford, who won bronze for Britain in the 100m sprint in the 1960 Rome Olympics.

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