If Commonwealth Games are 'sold out,' why do I see so many empty seats?

Many sports enthusiasts could not snag tickets, whether for lawn bowling or the swimming events – only to see plenty of empty seats in the stands later as they watched on TV.

Danish Ismail/Reuters
Spectators sit in the near-empty stands just before the start of the women's field hockey group match between Australia and Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, Oct. 9.

One of the biggest issues that has plagued the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is ticketing. Venues are routinely half-or-more empty, but tickets have been increasingly hard to procure.

People trying to buy tickets, either over the Internet or at a ticket counter, are told they're sold out.

IN PICTURES: Commonwealth Games 2010

In the lead up to the Games, public interest was not exactly huge, although things turned around after the glittering opening ceremony. But many sports enthusiasts found they simply could not get their hands on tickets, whether for lawn bowling or swimming.

I was among them. On Sunday, I tried in vain to buy tickets to the events at the main Jawarharlal Stadium. Later I watched it on television to see large tracts of unoccupied seats. On Tuesday, I went to the rugby sevens tournament – an event that had been widely touted as sold out, but found the stadium just two-thirds full, at best.

"The defining riddle of this games has been the simultaneous existence of 'sold out' boards at the box offices outside stadia, and empty rows of seats inside," said the Economic Times newspaper.

Over the weekend, the man in charge of ticketing was removed and replaced by his deputy after Indian media reported bundles of tickets found in the trash amid the "sold out" events but empty seats. Sanjeev Mittal had been installed by the prime minister's office, making it a double embarrassment – not just for the Games organizers, but also the government.

How this has happened is not completely clear. What is known is that organizers handed out tickets by the bucketload: to schoolchildren, to foreign embassies and high commissions, to government officials, and occasionally and begrudgingly, to the needy.

There have also been revelations that thousands of unused tickets have ended up with scrap dealers after failing to arrive at ticket counters in time, or being sold on the black market.

The main opposition party, the BJP, is now demanding a parliamentary probe into the ticketing fiasco. Commonwealth Games Federation chief Mike Fennell has already ordered such an investigation.

IN PICTURES: Commonwealth Games 2010

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.