Long lines, security checks and high costs blamed for empty stands in Sochi
Published Sunday, February 9, 2014 3:19PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, February 9, 2014 10:41PM EST
Long lines, security checks and high costs are all being blamed for the swaths of empty seats seen so far at some Olympic events in Sochi.
Organizers said Sunday that 92 per cent of all tickets for Day 1 events had been sold, but only 81 per cent of people who purchased tickets actually showed up.
Alexandra Kosterina, of the Sochi organizing committee, said the problem was due to a "Russian mentality" as Russians are used to arriving at an event just before it is about to begin.
"Yes we've had some problems, basically with Russian mentality…Russians like to come to events not prior, but as close as possible (to the start)," she said.
Another factor has been the long lineups to purchase tickets. Lineups are often longer than an hour, with some people simply giving up and leaving before getting tickets.
One woman in Sochi told CTV News that the lineups for tickets resembled the bread lines from the Second World War. "I just saw it and I was like…. 'No, I'm not standing here,'" she said, explaining why she eventually gave up.
Another factor is the increased security presence, reports CTV News' Genevieve Beauchemin.
"There's a lot of layers of security here," she said from Sochi, noting that fans have to get a special "spectator" pass from Olympic officials and then go through multiple checkpoints and scanners. "It does take quite a long time and that does slow down the process somewhat.”
American tourist Thompson Warren said he waited for hours to get into the opening ceremony. "I got to enjoy the Adler line, waiting for the opening ceremonies, which was four hours long," he said.
Canadian fan Monique Hamelin is in Sochi to cheer on Edmonton ski jumper Dusty Korek. She said Korek’s family couldn’t come because they couldn’t get a visa in time.
"The visa was a four-month process of going back and forth and the rules changed along the ways and it was expensive," she said.
The Sochi organizing committee hopes that spectators will get used to the idea of showing up to the event early to get to their seats on time for the remainder of the Games. It said that if the stands continue to be empty for some events, they'll fill them with volunteers.
Meanwhile it appears that some of the athletes are beginning to notice the empty seats in the Olympic venues.
One day after competing alongside her sisters, mogul skier Maxime Dufour-Lapointe told reporters she was surprised by the low turnout.
"I was prepared for a bigger crowd," she said Sunday.
One venue that was completely packed on Sunday, however, was the Iceberg Skating Palace, where Canada clinched a silver medal in team figure skating, finishing behind host-country Russia and ahead of Team USA.
With a report by CTV News' Joy Malbon in Sochi