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Olympics brass positive, or not, about crowds

August 13, 2008 |  8:50 am

Spectators watch the archery competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games on Tuesday.

BEIJING -- There was a lot of talk earlier in the summer about the rush on tickets for Olympic events by the Chinese people.

So where are they?

Give the Chinese credit so far. They have organized the Games well. But many of the venues aren't even half full of spectators.

To be fair, this is a common refrain during the Summer Games. The crowds can hardly be called crowds during the first week of competition. They start coming during the weekend. And the momentum carries over until the closing ceremony.

China was supposed to be different, though, because, well, there are so many people here. It's the most populous country in the world. You'd think it could fill up an arena, even for Greco-Roman wrestling.

The International Olympic Committee is concerned about the attendance, especially because of the way it looks on television. No one likes to see empty seats.

But the IOC also doesn't want to say anything that in any way can be interpreted as criticism.

So here was the response Wednesday from the IOC's executive director, Gilbert Felli, when asked about the attendance.

"I would not say we are not pleased,'' he said. "But where I would say we are not praising as much concerns the issue of spectators at some of the venues -- you can take it as not being happy because I like to be performing at 100%. I would like to have, always, all the stadiums full. But if I compare it to past Games, I can be pleased because we are not the worst and we are even better in some of the events.''


-- Randy Harvey

Photo: Spectators watch the archery competition in the Olympic Greeen Archery Field at the Beijing Olympics on Tuesday. Credit: Nicolas Asfouri / AFP / Getty Images