Found July 29, 2012 on
When I say I was on the ground four minutes before I started hearing the business gossip, that in and of itself may even be an understatement.
It was all smiles and "sleep suits" (aka pajamas) on my Virgin Atlantic flight last night, but the moment my feet hit terra firma at London's Heathrow Airport and I laid eyes on the Accenture and Coca-Cola curtains swathing the walk to Customs, both my phones started ringing with word of empty seats -- GREAT SEATS! -- at nearly all the most popular venues.
Word is, some 500 seats were empty as US rivals Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte took to the water on Saturday. The first session of men's basketball had a huge chunk of lower-tier (read: best) seats go unfilled. And I'm sorry, isn't gymnastics supposed to be one of the hottest tickets? Two major chunks of seats may as well have had crickets sitting in them. Not the players, but the insects. Chirp. Chirp.
Who's to blame? The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Olympic stars but in our sponsors, say critics. The International Olympic Committee has 11 top sponsors who pay big bucks for the rights to slap their logos everywhere.
That, these companies believe, translates directly to millions in sales. Heck, Procter & Gamble, a USOC sponsor, is saying it believes its affiliation this year will rake in half a billion dollars directly attributable to the glow the Olympics will bestow on its products. The biggest sponsors get handed sheaths of tickets to distribute any way they please. You can bet most go to their top clients. Think of it as a corporate palm-greasing.
There is nothing wrong with this. Until, of course, the clients don't show up .
Right now, as I peck this out at our FOXSports.com/Sky Sports studios in the London borough of Stratford, there is an investigation under way by the London 2012 organizers into which companies owned the empty seats and why the recipients didn't show up.
Top IOC sponsors, including Samsung, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Acer, Visa, Panasonic and Omega may have some "esplaining" to do. We're hearing Olympic organizers are even considering a 30-minute rule. If the seat remains empty 30 minutes into an event, it'll be given away to a hopefully appreciative recipient.
Lord Sebastian Coe, who heads up the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, better come up with something soon, other than his quick defense of the sponsors or his Band-Aid solution of filling empty seats with military personnel and students.
Either way, some real Olympic veterans are rolling their eyes about the controversy. I ran into six-time gold medalist and FOXSports.com analyst Amy Van Dyken in the green room. Van Dyken, who won her first gold medal in Atlanta in 1996, said, "Of course it's the sponsors' clients not showing up, but this always happens."
Van Dyken said that, for some reason, critics are picking out issues this Olympic year that have been around forever.
"Everyone's freaking out that Michael Phelps didn't show up for opening ceremonies. Guess what? Swimmers never march in the ceremony. We swim the next morning. We all go to sleep. I never went to one opening ceremony."
TOMORROW: Don't miss my FOXSports.com panel I will be moderating called "The games behind the Games: How Twitter is jumping NBC's score gun."
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Ryan Lochte has received attention for wearing a diamond grill after finishing events, and now we're learning the story behind it.
Michael Phelps, meet history.
With the United States' gold-medal winning swim in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay Tuesday night at the Aquatic Centre in London, Phelps surpassed Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina as the most decorated Olympian in history.
Phelps' three medals in London give him 19 for his career, one more than the mark set by Latynina in three Olympics between...
Arguably the greatest Olympic Athlete ever gave a very uninspiring performance this morning as Michael Phelps of the United States came very close to missing the medal round in the 400M IM this morning.
Phelps qualified in the eighth and final spot just making it by seven hundreths of a second.
Questions will now continue to arise as to whether or not the 14-time Olympic Gold...
The already controversial decision to include Ryan Lochte on the U.S. men's 4x100 freestyle relay grew even more so Sunday night, as he surrendered the lead during the final leg of the race, forcing the Americans to settle for silver.
The French, who were vanquished throughout Michael Phelps' run to eight gold medals during the 2008 Games, overcame the U.S. on the final...
Michael Phelps barely qualified in the 400-meter individual medley on the opening day of Olympic swimming Saturday, squeaking into the final by seven-hundredths of a second.
''That one didn't feel too good,'' he said.
The two-time defending Olympic champion won his heat in 4 minutes, 13.33 seconds with a time that was well off his world record of 4:03.84 set...
Ryan Lochte turned his much-anticipated duel with Michael Phelps into a blowout, pulling away to win the Olympic 400-meter individual medley by more than 3 seconds Saturday night. Even more stunning: Phelps didn't even win a medal.
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Michael Phelps is chasing more Olympic history in his next two events at the London Games. Winning medals in the 200-meter butterfly and a relay would let him get it done in the same night.
Phelps goes into Tuesday night's fly final with the fourth-fastest time in his signature race. He'll try for the second time to become the first male swimmer to win the same individual...
Michael Phelps qualified eighth-fastest in the 400-meter individual medley preliminaries on Saturday, grabbing the last spot in the evening final.
The two-time defending Olympic champion won his heat in 4 minutes, 13.33 seconds with a time that was well off his world record of 4:03.84 set four years ago in Beijing, when Phelps won a record eight gold medals.
Kosuke Hagino of Japan...
On a stunner of an opening night at the pool in London, Michael Phelps was routed by his American rival, Ryan Lochte in the 400-meter individual medley, losing to Lochte by more than 4 seconds Saturday. That’s not all: The winningest Olympian ever didn’t win any medal at all, the first time that’s happened in a race of this magnitude since he was a 15-year-old kid competing...
Michael Phelps opened defense of his Olympic title in the
200-meter butterfly with the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the
preliminaries on Monday.
Here's what to watch for at the London Olympics on Sunday:
1. SWIMMING: The United States, Australia and France go for gold in the final of the 4 x100m freestyle relay, a day after Michael Phelps was stunningly defeated by teammate Ryan Lochte.
2. BASKETBALL: The U.S. men's team plays France (and NBA star Tony Parker).
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The Opening Ceremony to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London was a disappointment. The 60-foot Boston Harbor hologram -- sponsored by the hygiene product company Gillette -- featuring Tyson Gay and Ryan Lochte was the much more impressive show on Friday night. The visuals were on two screens of water vapor above the harbor's surface and featured half a dozen projectors to...
Here's what to watch for at the London Olympics on Saturday:
1. FIRST GOLD: Seven golds are up for grabs. China's Yi Siling took the first in the women's 10-meter air rifle.
2. ALL TO DO: Michael Phelps barely, barely qualified for the final of the 400-meter individual medley. He's in the unpopular Lane 8. Can he recover?
3. US WOMEN: They play Colombia at...
No one would ever confuse London for Tuscaloosa. But for SEC fans, these Olympic Games look a lot like old home week.
On Day Three of the Games alone, Florida swimming star Ryan Lochte finished fourth in the 200 meter freestyle, while his fellow Gator, Gemma Spofforth, finish fifth in the women's 100 meter breaststroke wearing the colors of her native Great Britain.