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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid