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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chinese Olympic Organizer's Problem, Not Enough People

Any number of reasons can explain what is happening in Beijing, China, for the Olympics, but the bottom line is, they are having to bus in state-trained "cheer squads" to help fill up the seats of the Olympic Park.
There were 500 no-shows when Michael Phelps won his third gold medal for the swimming event, empty seats also when he won his fourth gold the next day.

The U.S. softball team played in a stadium only about 30 percent full on Tuesday, while the day before, 10 of 18 venues did not reach 80 percent capacity.

Many reasons are being speculated on and offered by officials and observers, such as reserved tickets are not being used and people are waiting for the finals, or the tickets that were provided to employees of state-run enterprises decided it was not worth the trouble to attend, or the weather.

Others think that strict visa restrictions have kept some foreign ticket holders away but the problem isn't just with the stadium seats, but hotels and tourist sites all across Beijing are reporting lower that normal attendance for the month of August.

"Business is worse than at this time last year," said a receptionist at a 22-room hotel in Beijing's Chongwen district, where rooms cost $28 a night. "It's the season for traveling and last year the hotel was full. The Olympics should have brought business to Beijing, but the reality is too far from the expectation."

The report says that Chinese organizers that expected a far better attendance level were "blindsided".

The "cheer squads" are sent in shifts according to Wang Li, who is a 30 year-old working for an automobile manufacturer in Beijing, who says, "Today, 50 workers came to do the cheerleading job. Our company sends us to softball today, but other workers were sent to other venues to do some work. We come here on shifts."

She goes on to tell how they are coached in how to cheer properly saying they are taught to say, ""Olympics, Go, Go, Go! China, Go, Go, Go! Beijing, Go, Go, Go!"

Volunteers are brought in to cheer for each side to provide a "good atmosphere"

The International Olympic Committee has gone as far as to ask China to publicly address the issue, with Kevan Gosper, vice chairman of the IOC's coordination commission for Beijing, saying, "We've been saying, 'You're missing a great opportunity to get more of your people in here to celebrate your games.' I would want to stress how important it is for the host city that the venues are seen to be full and everybody has the opportunity to enjoy the festivities."

China kept scores tickets to offer people for free, many of which are not being used now and organizers that wanted those tickets originally are upset, such as Wu Qifa, who is a senior digital design engineer, who expressed how frustrated and annoyed she was when she saw the number of empty seats because she had gone to great lengths to obtain them.

Wu states, "When we wanted tickets, we couldn't buy them. My colleagues tried to buy online but were out of luck. I tried to line up to buy tickets but it was so impossibly crowded. . . . I think that some tickets for foreign countries are not sold out. Or some people who bought the tickets, but could not enter China."

Problems have plagued these Olympics with many saying the International Olympic Committee made the wrong call and criticizing them for slating the Summer Olympics to be held in China and recent stories only give them more reason to do so.

Journalists alleging police brutality while covering a demonstration of students for a Free Tibet, with the British journalist claiming that he was knocked to the ground and thrown in a van and questioned, to young girls being switched out being one girls voice was beautiful but Chinese officials didn't think her face was pretty enough so the world saw one face and heard a different girl's voice and even a story of an American citizen killed in an attack in Beijing on August 9, 2008.

Problems have plagued these Olympics with the lack of attendance just being latest reported on and no one knows what other problems will be reported from those that did attend when all is said and done and people have gone to their respective homes.