London: Saturday was the most memorable night of Libby Trickett’s life and she wanted all her friends and family to witness her moment of glory.
But when the Australian swimmer joined her teammates on the gold medal podium at the London Olympics’ Aquatics Centre after her victory in the 4x100 metres freestyle relay, they faced rows of empty seats. Athletes and spectators were united on Sunday in their condemnation of the number of gaps in the crowds at a host of Olympic venues.
Trickett, 27, did not swim in the final but won a gold medal having competed in the heats for the event, when even larger sections of the stands were empty, with about 500 spare seats.
Nick Green, chef de mission of the Australian team, one of the biggest squads in London, said: “We would have loved to have more Australians in there to witness what these girls did last night (Sunday). We were a bit disappointed.”
Trickett added: “It’s always disappointing when as athletes you don’t get to bring your whole support system, but for me, my most important people were there. It is a brilliant venue and it deserves to be filled to capacity, not only for the Australians but for everyone competing.” Her teammate, Cate Campbell, said that all five members of the team had family and friends who would have liked to occupied the unused seats.
Despite the pledge by the Games’ organisers to tackle the problem, there were still empty seats at most Olympic venues on Sunday. At the Aquatics Centre on Sunday afternoon there were an estimated 300 gaps, while three quarters of the seats reserved for VIP sporting officials were unoccupied at the start of the morning gymnastics competition at the North Greenwich Arena.
Sergeant Marc Robson, from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, was ordered to send his troops to the gymnastics’ arena to fill the seats in rotation because they still had carry out their security tasks. “I was told to let the boys come in and enjoy the show,” he said. “Look at them, they seem to be liking it just fine.”