Sochi Olympics Say Arenas Nearly Full, Sometimes With Volunteers

Sochi Olympic organizers say some volunteer workers are being given seats to ensure facilities are closer to capacity during Russia’s first Winter Games.

Almost 60,000 people bought tickets to events yesterday, the second full day of competition at the Olympics, local organizing committee spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina said during a news conference. Still, some seats are unused, either because they were unsold, ticketholders don’t arrive in time or they’re reserved for media or Olympic family members, she said.

“We have a personal motivation program,” Kosterina said today. “Volunteers who are not on shift may take part in it. It depends on the event. If we see there isn’t a turnout and there are seats available, yes, we invite some of the volunteers to join in.”

Yesterday, Kosterina said that 92 percent of tickets were sold for the Feb. 8 sessions. The games, which opened three days ago, have been hampered by concerns over threatened terrorist attacks and unfinished building projects.

About 30,000 people came to the two Olympic parks on the opening day of competition, she said. The games are organized over two sites about 30 kilometers (19 miles) apart -- one next to the Black Sea where ice events are held, the other in the mountains to host skiing and sliding competitions. The opening day featured action including medals in speedskating, snowboard slopestyle and three other sports.

“We might have lost 10 percent of people who didn’t show up,” she said yesterday during a news conference. “During the first days people are finding out how long it takes to get to the stadium, how long it takes to get through security.”

Long Lines

While there are empty seats, there is demand, she said. Some people had to wait in line for as long as four hours over the weekend in the town to get spectator tickets, which allow them into the Olympic parks.

Organizers are aware of the delays and are trying to find solutions, Kosterina said today.

“We know about the issue, and we apologize,” she said. “We are taking every necessary measure, including adding extra cashiers and working to make it move faster.”

The people with tickets who skipped events did so because of logistical issues, not security concerns, Kosterina said.

Russia sent more then 40,000 police and security agents to seal off Sochi until the end of the games. Three blasts killed more than 30 people last year in Volgograd, a city halfway between Moscow and Sochi that’s formerly known as Stalingrad.

Security Concerns

Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the $45 billion games, the most expensive in history, to transform a Soviet-era summer resort on the Black Sea into a year-round destination. The arrival last week of athletes and journalists left organizers scrambling to finish facilities as visitors complained about incomplete hotels, half-built sidewalks and the city’s cull of stray dogs.

Wanted posters featuring more than 10 alleged terrorists who could infiltrate the city can be seen in Sochi. The town of about 400,000 people is 430 kilometers from Dagestan, where Russian troops are fighting Islamic radicals.

The American government banned all liquids, gels and aerosols from carry-on luggage on flights between the U.S. and Russia, tightening security after a warning that terrorists might hide bomb-making material in toothpaste tubes that could be assembled into a bomb during flight or later.

The U.S. has warned athletes and fans planning to attend the Olympics to be aware of recent terrorist threats. The Pentagon said it’s prepared to evacuate Americans from Russia if needed.

“It’s clear to me that Vladimir Putin and his team have made security a top priority for this Olympics,” outgoing U.S. envoy to Moscow Michael McFaul said in an interview in Sochi.

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