News / Europe

Seats Go Begging at Showcase Event of Olympic Games

The spectator stands are seen half-filled at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 9, 2014.
The spectator stands are seen half-filled at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 9, 2014.
Reuters
The cowbells clanged and the horns blared out, but the sight of hundreds of empty seats put a slight damper on the atmosphere at the men's downhill race on Sunday, traditionally one of the highlights of the Winter Olympics.

For host nation Russia, lacking a medal contender and not normally part of the World Cup ski circuit, it was always going to be tough to recreate the intensity and excitement that accompanies races in countries like Austria, Switzerland and Italy.

"The downhill is the king of the sport so I don't know what's going on. The Russians have no downhill skiers, that's the problem here," said Austria's 1980 Olympic champion Leonhard Stock, surveying stands that were more than half-empty only minutes before the scheduled start of the race.

While late arrivals filled most of the 7,500-capacity Rosa Khutor alpine venue, there were still hundreds of unfilled seats at either end of the tribune.

While the world's top skiers have been full of praise for the set-up in Rosa Khutor, Austria's Max Franz said there was no comparison with the fervent crowds at the top venues in his native country and Switzerland.

"You can't compare the atmosphere with Kitzbuehel or Wengen," he told Reuters. "In Wengen it's crazy, in Kitzbuehel there are masses of people. I'm not disappointed, that's just how it is. The more people, the cooler."

American skier Marco Sullivan told Reuters: "I think it may be a little bit more subdued [but] it seems like people are excited."

Bjoernar Hoeistad was one of a highly visible contingent of Norwegian fans, some sporting Viking horns and with their faces painted in the colours of the national flag, a blue cross edged with white against a red background.

Norway's Kjetil Jansrud skis in the men's alpine skiing downhill race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, Feb. 9, 2014.Norway's Kjetil Jansrud skis in the men's alpine skiing downhill race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, Feb. 9, 2014.
x
Norway's Kjetil Jansrud skis in the men's alpine skiing downhill race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, Feb. 9, 2014.
Norway's Kjetil Jansrud skis in the men's alpine skiing downhill race during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, Feb. 9, 2014.
Cheered by compatriot Kjetil Jansrud's bronze medal, they clanged their bells with gusto, but Hoeistad was a little disappointed with the decibel count.

"It could be better, the noise level when the athletes come down the hill - that would make it more fun," he said.

But fellow-Norwegian Ivar Bogeberg, watching with his wife Zhanna and their daughter, was impressed as he surveyed the stands.

"We've been here some years before when there was nothing, only a small restaurant. Everything has changed," he said. "This is not like Russia. Everything goes smoothly."    

Russian Olympic organizers on Sunday admitted more than 10 percent of ticket-holding fans missed their competitions on the first day of the Games on Saturday, but said it was due to late arrivals and not necessarily because of tight security. It was not clear if travel delays were a factor on Sunday.

Organizers said they had sold 92 percent of tickets for all the competitions with attendance figures standing at 81 percent.

"We definitely have a compact Games but a lot of people need to understand what the time for them to travel is [to the competitions]," Sochi Games spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina told reporters.

Fans have to undergo stringent security checks as part of the Games safety operation with Islamist militants from the North Caucasus region having threatened to attack Russia's first winter Olympics. Spectators have to undergo several checks, especially in the mountain venues, delaying their entry.

"Yes, we had some problems with the Russian mentality in a lot of ways that Russians like to come to the event not prior but as close as possible. We are tying to alert people...to come in advance," she said. "That is why indeed we had an issue with a lot of spectators being late for the Games. We are working on it, we are trying to develop our communications and we hope that it will improve."

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs