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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs