Originally written on The Other Paper  |  Last updated 10/19/14

Prime seats at many Olympic events have been noticeably empty and will be filled by soldiers, teachers, students and volunteers to save organizers the embarrassment of the sponsor-issued no-shows.

During the first few days of the 2012 London Games television cameras couldn't help but show the vacant seats— which are usually center stage and with the best views of the sports.

Call it the Yankees luxury-seat syndrome— those empty $2500 seats behind home plate that are prevalent at every New York Yankees game.

Most of the unused seats at the Olympic events had been given to corporate sponsors who just don't show up for the preliminary rounds. This includes some high-profile events like gymnastics and swimming.

"It is obvious some of those seats are not being used in the early rounds," said organizing chief Sebastian Coe. "We take it seriously. I don't want to see those seats empty."

Coe refused to name sponsors who are abusing the privilege of getting the best seats and not using them. There have been calls from the public to name the culprits publicly. Coe doesn't believe "naming and shaming" the sponsors is true to the Olympic spirit.

"It is disappointing to athletes because they want to perform in front of full houses," said Daley Thompson, Britain's decathlon hero. "I think in a lot of sports, they don't get full houses, and this is a brilliant opportunity for them."

The empty-seat syndrome is not exclusive to London. It was a problem in Beijing four years ago.

Major U.S. sponsors like Visa and Coca Cola secure many of the tickets and give the freebies to winners of promotional contests and important VIPs. The sponsors claim they have no control over which events those fans choose to attend.

Filling the seats with deserving people is a good start. On the other end of the spectrum, it remains to be seen if the organizers can do something about letting visitors get inside the Olympic Stadium to see the Olympic Flame— which can only be seen from inside.


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