Eggs and tomatoes: those cheering squads

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Flag of China  ,
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Now I am confused.
Why is that the Olympics were sold out months before the event?
Yet look at any TV coverage and there are empty seats and empty rows?

Could it be that those seats weren't sold after all? (sorry to those who wanted to watch their loved ones compete in events)

Or were those seats sold to corporate sponsors? Or was it the media not turning up?

Or was it because the tickets were so cheap - as little as US$4 that people couldn't be bothered turning up?

Anyway, today Chinese Olympic organisers today admitted to deploying "cheer squads" to create atmosphere and disguise blocks of empty seats in the sports venues.

As the Times reports -

The legions of spectators wearing matching yellow t-shirts and banging together oversized inflatable batons have been highly visible at the first sold-out Games.

Wang Wei, vice-president of the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee (Bocog) revealed they were volunteers shipped in to "create a good atmosphere" by cheering for both sides at team events.

Sitting in seats not taken up by sponsors, Olympic officials and spectators arriving later as sessions get more interesting, they are being used to cover up the embarrassment of having empty rows at events that are supposed to be full. "If people turn up they will let them take their seats," Mr Wang said.

The use of fake fans - on the back of an admission that the fireworks at the opening ceremony were touched up with special effects for TV - has caused consternation among real fans locked outside the stadiums. The only events not sold out are the football matches, which are taking place outside Beijing.

Overseas visitors are being forced to go to scalpers charging more than ten times the face value of tickets. Bocog said it was not aware of ticket touting going on right outside the Bird's Nest stadium.

Scalping is illegal in China and Bocog had promised to clamp down on an activity usually rife in China. Officially those found guilty of the offence face a 1,500 yuan fine and 15 days detention. Unofficially, there are reports that offenders face up to four years in "re-education" labour camps.

While clamping down on security, Chinese organisers reacted to criticisms about the lack of life around the sports venues by saying they would "encourage" more people to come into the Olympic Park.

Yesterday, they claimed 40,000 people visited the site. Of the 18 Olympic events that took place, two were 90 per cent sold, six 80 per cent, eight 70 per cent and two 60 per cent. Officials did not give exact figures or specify which events were the least popular.

The public is not allowed on the Olympic Green, where half of the competition venues are located, leading to accusations that the Chinese authorities are squeezing the joy out of the Games through overzealous policing.

Restricting access to accredited personnel, security officials and volunteers has turned the area into a ghost town where even the corporate sponsors have limited their usually frenetic merchandising and entertaining activities.

Beyond the perimeter fence, Chinese people have been forced to take snaps of the iconic "bird's nest" stadium and "watercube" aquatics centre from a considerable distance.
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