Photographer: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

No-Shows, Long Lines Mean Some Seats Stay Empty at Rio Olympics

  • Olympic competitions off to a smooth start, Felli says
  • IOC executive director has faith in Brazil security for games

Rio de Janeiro’s Olympics have been running smoothly despite logistical challenges that have resulted in empty seats and security concerns, the International Olympic Committee’s executive director for the games said Thursday.

Organizers are working to speed up security screening and reduce long transit times between venues after some fans didn’t make it in time for the matches, Gilbert Felli, who was dispatched to Rio months ago to oversee preparations, told reporters at an event in the host city. Replacement tickets are being offered to those who missed games due to logistical issues, he said.

People wait in long security lines at the Olympic Tennis Center on Aug. 11.
People wait in long security lines at the Olympic Tennis Center on Aug. 11.
Photographer: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Blocks of seats have been empty even at some of the most popular events such as the women’s gymnastics team finals on Tuesday at the Olympic Park, where the U.S. clinched gold. It was the most streamed Summer Olympics event ever, with 36 million prime-time viewers, according to NBC. Brazil also competed at the event, and spectators who wanted to see it in person were left out of seats they could have filled.

“Some people buy tickets and don’t show up, and I don’t know why,” Felli said. “We have to find out.”

For fans who traveled for the event, the vacancies are a painful missed opportunity.

“I tried to buy tickets a month ago, and there weren’t any,” said Telma Lima, a tourist from Curitiba in southern Brazil. “It’s sad because more people could have been there supporting the girls, and they couldn’t.”

Lima said she missed the national water polo squad’s match on Wednesday night because she got stuck in traffic for an hour and a half before getting to the Olympic Park.

Felli also said a series of security incidents haven’t interrupted competitions and that organizers have faith in security services. On Wednesday a truck of national guardsmen who traveled to Rio to support local forces took fire after it made a wrong turn into one of the city’s hillside slums. Three soldiers were shot, including one in the head who lost brain mass.

The incident followed another in which a bus carrying journalists had its window shattered when, according to police, someone threw a stone through it. A stray bullet also landed in a media tent a days earlier.

“We knew Brazil was not easy,” Felli said. “We have full confidence in the security system from the national government and we believe that they’ve been taking actions to resolve the issues.”

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