Almost a week in to the Rio Olympics, organizers continue to struggle with filling the stands at almost every venue and event. These attendance issues prompted some strong words from IOC Vice President John Coates, who called the 2016 iteration of the Summer Games the "most difficult" Olympics ever.
In an interview with BBC Thursday morning, Coates expressed his frustrations with the poor turnouts so far:
This has been the most difficult games we have ever encountered [...] I wish there were bigger crowds. We did understand that they were distributing tickets to poorer folk and school kids, but we are still not seeing them at any of the venues. That's a disappointment, but the quality of the sport is certainly rising to the occasion.
While several events at the London Games four years ago were sold out long before competition began, the same cannot be said for most sports in Rio. Dozens of seats are unfilled at practically every event, and it remains unclear if that trend will change.
One potential reason for the sparsity in Olympic crowds could be the high ticket prices. According to the Telegraph, "Saturday’s athletics costs 380 Brazilian Real while seats at the closing ceremony can be purchased at R$2100. That is way beyond the budget of all but the most well-heeled Brazilians." Brazil's economy has been struggling as of late, so it makes sense that not that many citizens can afford tickets.
It currently takes 2 hours to get in to some of the stadiums, and fans watching the tennis had to wait 20 minutes just to buy water. The organisers put the outrageous delays down to overzealous police and difficulty communicating with private security firms.
Of course, one can't forget that these Games have faced heavy scrutiny ever since the IOC selected Rio as the host city. From fears of the Zika virus to the bacteria-filled water to terrorist threats, media coverage for months was dominated by Rio's potential problems, thus making the Olympics less attractive to potential attendees across the globe. One Gallup poll showed that Americans are less interested in the Games than ever before.
Despite the IOC's struggles with attendance, Coates affirmed that the Games' governing body has "no regrets" about choosing Rio as the host city, saying that "it is important to spread the Games."
That is true, everyone should have a chance to experience the world's marquee sporting event. Unfortunately for this year's athletes, who deserve to be cheered on and celebrated, many have refused, or can't afford, to take that opportunity.