Empty seats and the emptiness of the Olympic ideal in 2012:


The BBC vs Andrew Gilligan v The Slog

I hate to get all 1984 and thought-control about this empty seats furore, but the following comparison of what the numbers tell us about the enduring Olympic disgrace (going back several decades) of unused VIP seats should give everyone with an open mind and a soundly functioning brain serious concerns about what exactly the role of the BBC is these days. But most of all, it should make us examine just how the Olympic ideal has now been perverted by mindless Mammon

Although the general tenor of MSM comment today about bum-free seats is one of ‘why-oh-why-always-the-Olympics’, that’s bollocks: as a football fan who has attended most big occasions in that sport over fifty years, I can say without question that we are dealing with the anthropology of hierarchy here: every must-see event – be it the Wimbledon Men’s final or the World Cup Soccer Final – is always dominated by the rich, the alphas, and the celebs. So in that context, let’s just examine the three sources below in turn:

1. The BBC’s Q&A. ‘It is not just because of the Games’ sponsors failing to take up seats, Games organisers Locog and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have said.’ Well Auntie, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

‘”No-one should run away with the idea that large numbers of seats will be empty throughout the Games,” said Lord Coe on Saturday’.

Well of course, Seb has been feeding us double-talk on all this since Day One: this is the man who said security had “not been compromised” by the abject failure of G4S to supply, as it were, security. (This morning, Slogger Ron Whitehand reports G4S employees spotted asleep on the job by soldiers in the compound, and several fence holes that haven’t been mended for days).

And of course, the BBC didn’t cross-question Lord Coe of the Blackout. They ‘had checked’ he said, “and the vast majority of no-shows at stadia weren’t sponsors”. Well they wouldn’t be would they, Seb? I mean, according to you, they only got 8% of the tickets.

But the BBC didn’t interrogate that piece of Soviet maths either…because it was ‘confirmed’ by the IOC:

‘8% of tickets have been made available to sponsors and 75% per cent to the public. Another 12% go to National Olympic Committees and 5% to the Olympic family – people like IOC officials and the media. The gaps are due to people from a range of those different groups not filling them, the IOC’s Mark Adams has said.’

I need to someone to explain to me here HTF Mr Adams knows that. What’s he done, checked the number of every empty seat against his vast files of numbered VIPs and ‘the public’, and then rung them while stuck in a Zil Lane to ask them why they aren’t there? How would he know an Olympic sibling from a Stratford oik? But as for the overall explanation, “fair play” seems like a reasonable response: 75% of the seats went to the public.

Until, that is, you read the Daily Telegraph’s version.

2. Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph Gilligan is the greatest MSM bollocks deconstructor we have.

‘Lord Coe claimed last week that sponsors need special consideration because they have contributed a “mountainous amount of money” to the Games. In fact, only around 7 to 8 per cent of the money being spent on the London Olympics is coming from private sponsors. But they get a lot more than 7 per cent of the seats – around 13 per cent in total, 20 per cent if the Olympic Family are included, and up to 50 per cent at the most desirable events.’

This is terrific journalism: drilling into the figures to explode the spun woffle of Coe & IOC dissembling. It is essentially a qualitative examination of privilege and favouritism, and a succinct demonstration of how impossible it can be to tell Olympic family from sponsor from celeb from VIP. Indeed, Gilligan’s conclusion sounds all too familiar in the light of a decade of lies from the political and banking classes in our country:

‘The seats they get also tend to be the best ones, with the paying punters disproportionately confined to binocular-view accommodation in the rafters.No other major sporting event gives so low a proportion of its space to ordinary people. Yet at the same time no other sporting event takes so much from the taxpayer and ordinary people, or imposes so much inconvenience on them.’

Spot on. And now for meeeeee.

3. The Slog

I was in the middle of doing the sums from the BBCNews drivel when @OurOlympics drew my attention to the Torygraph piece. Some of what I was going to say has already been incorporated in the above, but anyway:

i. If BBCNews can let the Coe and IOC conkers pass as an ‘explanation’ for row upon row of naked seats, then we might as well give up on it as a serious news organisation – and I say that as one who has virulently opposed every underhand attempt to replace it with the Hunt-Murdoch-Sky axis of amorality.

ii. Just analyse some of those IOC numbers, and the way that when it suits them, they’re separated, and when it doesn’t, they somehow transmute into a miraculous blend of obfuscation. A classic phrase from Mark Adams: “Another 12% go to National Olympic Committees and 5% to the Olympic family”…ah right, so 1 in 5 tickets go to Yoooooou then? But then “75% of the tickets go to the general public”….er, but not many for the big occasions? Um, no.

iii. The FA Cup Final is sponsored, but whether sponsored or not, it has never been an even minor call on the public purse. (Wembley is the national stadium, not just the FA Cup final’s venue: so far, we’ve built just the one in the last 90 years). Staging the Olympics (something I opposed from the start) will cost this country upwards of £12 billion by the time all the bills are in and have been squirrelled away off balance sheet somewhere. Why are 1 in 5 tickets going to those who directly gain from the event, as opposed to those who directly paid for the overwhelming proportion of its cost? Why are the gainers in the Zil Lanes, while the payers have had Boris Johnson yelling at them to f**k off out of the Tube system for four weeks beforehand?

Because, my Slogger friends, it’s the way the world turns in the 21st Century: They Say, We Pay. They Fail, We Zirp. They Rig, We Lose.

But I will make one final point, because I think it deserves consideration. Maybe a lot of those seats are empty because – after the unbelievable brass neck of making us, the taxpayers, raffle for the tickets – those who wound up in Row 310 watching a Synchronised Callisthenics Qualifying Round found something more interesting to do nearer the time. Like, for example, walking with a loyal, honest and loving dog and two small kids across Balham Common.

I loved what the Olympics was. I detest what it has become. I despise the Boris Johnsons and Lord Greens and David Camerons and Danny Boyles and Tony Blairs and Lord Coes and Sarah Fergusons who use it to further their feeble careers or go there to be seen. I think professionalising the thing is the equivalent of privatising the Church of England: it isn’t commerce’s to privatise in the first place, and it is the antithesis of what it should stand for.

A bunch of psychopaths in Beijing bagging it for their totalitarian ends four years ago was bad enough. But London 2012 is fulfilling all my worst fears: it displays – already – all the self-awarded grandiloquence, politicisation, unaccountability, incompetence, lies, media bullying, brand control, unthinking celebration and creative mediocrity that have, together, become the defining features of Great Britain. We are become a post-Imperial foam of bubbly irrelevance tossed about on a sea of econo-fiscal disaster.

Still: crack open another bottle of the ’36 Olympische Krug Speziale, Herr Oberst.The Russians are only in Potsdam: they won’t be here for hours yet.

35 thoughts on “Empty seats and the emptiness of the Olympic ideal in 2012:

  1. Thats sport mate. Tony Blair bought the olympics and part of the price was all this empty seat bollocks, he was happy to see us all pay for it, as are Boris and DC. No doubt they are all privileged to be brown nosing the olympic bureaucrats. Personally I would pay 12billion to have this covered on Sky and off the BBC so I don’t have it thrust down my throat all day. What pissed me off was the inane BBC questioning of the foreign chap who had just biked 158 miles and had the affront to beat the BBC favoured Brit. What did he think about the Brit not winning. He looked at the interviewer as if she was mad and (I precis) indicated he did not give a f*** about said Brit, he had just won a gold medal. Respect to him and total contempt for the BBC!

    PS would DC take £12 billion in euro denominated Greek debt to sell the TV rights to Sky even at this late stage. I suspect I will be able to pick some up very cheap in the next few days.


  2. Yeah, one of the really annoying things is when an interviewer shoves a microphone in a competitor’s hyper-ventilating face right after the race and asks, “How do you feel?”
    I want them to say, “HTF do you think I feel, you stupid f***.”


  3. It doesn’t matter what the subject, commenter’s can always twist it to be the fault of the BBC.

    Apart from that thought, enjoyed the article. Food for thought, but feel somewhat impotent to change anything.


  4. All athletes would say with one voice that family and close friends are the people who make the greatest sacrifice on the long hard slog to Olympic qualification. And the one person who should know this is Seb Coe. From the moment the 2012 tickets went on sale there was a mean minded treatment of family and friends which will inevtitably leave a deep stain on the London games.


  5. And what about the empty seat at WIMBLEDON Eh?

    It’s a bloody disgrace.

    Some people tell me its because people turn up to see Federer play and then can’t be arsed to wait around for matches on the same court later in the day between two no-names, but I BELIEVE IT IS A CONSPIRACY!

    And as for the Olympics being all about money THEY ALWAYS WERE! Except that the money was given as huge “benefits in kind”.

    You really are an utter numpty at times.


  6. I too find more pleasure in taking my 2 dogs walking and me paddling in the sea on the West Beach in Littlehampton. The water is warm, the sky is blue, well mostly! And at that moment in time, nothing else matters, it’s heaven.


  7. @PhilE.Quite right, the main Act,London Olympic Games etc. was passed in 2006,which was when Parliament could have repealed a 1995 Act and ,perhaps run the show in the interest of the UK, and not the IOC.


  8. On the BBC allowing people to spew bollix excuses without challenge…..
    Be assured it’s not only Lord Coe who’s got away with this.
    The BBC (and Sky News and every other TV News channel) does this all the time with people in high places on every imaginable topic. Blair, Brown & King were all interviewed on economic matters and spewed utter rubbish but never challenged.

    It’s another version of political press conferences where if any journo asks unwanted or difficult questions, he will rarely be invited to ask a question at future press conferences. If he persists, his news editor is likely to get a call telling him that said journalist is no longer welcome and his Press ID accreditation is withdrawn, meaning he won’t be allowed in to future political press Q&As. The political elites have a range of sanctions against journalists who step out of line.

    It’s even worse in the US. Most people have no idea how much journalism and politics are intertwined.


  9. Well its true that the Beeb are a bunch of amateurs mostly from uni where they studied history and then couldn’t get a job anywhere else. But really the empty seats are mostly caused by people getting tickets for a particular stadium on a particular day and then only turning up for an hour or so to watch the specific participant they are interested in, Kazakhstan vs Tonga in heat 1 of the womens judo or whatever. Wimbledon is like this, the Olympics has always been like this. It isn’t like the World Cup. There isn’t that much you can do about it. Even the athletics ends up with empty seats despite many sports going on at the same time because some nations have tickets for the arena but only have one competitor in the whole shebang.


  10. Sir,

    As you will note, I have proliferated abundant contributions in the way of outstandingly intelligent and authoritative comments already today on the Slog.
    For this reason, I will refrain from entering my thoughts on the Olympic Games for the time being.
    It should be noted that I am more acquainted with financial matters of the world, especially Naked Derivatives which are my specialist subject. I’m also pretty red hot on matters regarding global warming, as you will note from my earlier blogs, but come to that, I’m pretty damn clever on all subjects and can hold my own on any subject by making multi comments and responses, so long as I have my Wikipedia Hard Copy on my desk.

    This is my way of countering the many accusations I receive in my daily postbag of talking complete nonsense all of the time. I do apologise to ALL my avid readers, and promise to try to talk sensible things in the future.

    I sometimes think I spend too much time in my bed snuggled up in my Teletubbies Duvet set dreaming of Rupert Blanketstein.


  11. FFS “fake Gemz” is back again.

    I swear that him/her and rastaman are one and the same.

    And “real Gemz”: I agree, that brand of trolling isn’t funny, just kinda weird.


  12. @JS: You’re probably right, although I know my own company were granted free corporate tickets for Wimbledon each year because it provides a lot of the IT gear to measure and time stuff. But it was rarely the case that the seats were all occupied..many of those who went spent their time in the bar! As you say, there’s not a lot that can be done about it although it must disappoint the players.


  13. @kfc: Indeed. The TV News folks are proud of the access they have to all the rich and powerful people. They simply wouldn’t get this if they asked arkward questions, so interviews become little more than a pre-scripted platform for the guest to explain his policies or point of view. I’m absolutely sure that in many cases, the exact questions have to be agreed beforehand or it’s no deal.

    So much for Britain’s free and rigorous MSM…


  14. You’re lucky. They’ve put up big fences here in Porland & Weymouth to stop the locals not only getting into the sea but to stop them seeing the sea!


  15. Oh no here we go again. Would whoever is the real Gemz kindly refrain from rising to the bait. Trolls die through lack of attention.


  16. What a pity newspapers no longer have teeth. Somebody is making a whole bundle of money out of the Olympics, and I think it is time they were named and shamed. But it won’t happen. Because most of Britain’s editor don;t have balls, and won’t demand answers. Britain is stony broke. We can’t afford to host the International Conker championships, let alone an Olympic extravaganza. But politicians didn’t take any notice of the electorate’s warnings. So Cameron won his Big Willie Contest, and the rest of we poor suckers will be paying for it for the next fifty years. I wonder how much money the French gave to bribe to the IOC, NOT to have them staged in Paris.


  17. Chris, thankyou.

    Max, were it but that easy! Witness today: unasked for, it appears like some dirty oil leak across a reservoir. My troll does not seem to go away when ignored, nor does JW do anything about it. It is out of my hands.


  18. ” So Cameron won his Big Willie Contest, and the rest of we poor suckers will be paying for it for the next fifty years.”

    Sorry, who won the contest? I’m all for knocking Cameron when he proves what a sorry excuse for a human being he is, but I think you will find that he had very little to do with getting the Olympics. Wasn’t that Blair’s ego trip?


  19. Gemma, if I were you, I would stop commenting here. JW doesnt seem to care about your irritating troll and does nothing about the problem. Why do you keep bothering? There must be other sites that you could visit.


  20. Another very good reason to go along with Richard North’s plan of referism. Force the elites to ask us nicely if they can throw our money away on these projects. And with any luck, we will tell them to f..ck orf.


  21. Was there VAT on the tickets?

    It is so much more comfy stretching out on the sofa with a coffee and dog stretched out next to me watching the Olympics on the box.
    Weymouth is just down the road, life is being made so uncomfortable re park and ride , road closures and the stress of obeying official busybodies from a different greedy world and masses of Robocops hyped up with officialdom, yep it is better off being at home and enjoying a little schadenfreude!


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