Olympics Crowds Thinned By Security, Traffic

Events like weightlifting, rugby and even expected hits like beach volleyball have seen sparse attendance at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Photo: AP Photo / Mark Humphrey
Empty seats abound during a men’s weightlifting event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 7.

Organizers said long security lines, traffic and lack of audience interest were all factors in the low turnout at some events, but emphasized that energy levels at the Games remained high.

Much was discussed about security in Rio prior to the event, as security contracts were given to agents without much counter-terrorism experience just weeks before the start and concerns about possible attacks were high. Reports indicated Brazilian police arrested 12 “ISIS inspired” individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks just two weeks before the opening ceremony. On-site security has thus resulted in long lines, which have deterred some visitors from attending competitions.

Organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada said the hope is that these lines will move faster once a full week of the Games has been completed. “We believe that most of the issues … have been solved,” Andrada said Aug. 7. “That doesn’t mean we rest … Security overall remains our main priority and we’re going to keep an eye on it.”

Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes has reportedly asked locals to carpool until the Games are over as the roads have grown increasingly congested. The mayor also declared Aug. 4 a holiday to guarantee that the Olympic Torch could navigate clear streets, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Public schools in Rio are suspended from Aug. 5-21 for locals to enjoy the Games. Andrada said around three-quarters of the attendees at the Games are Brazilian, and that 82 percent of available tickets have been sold. Andrada said one of the benefits of the Games is exposing audiences to new forms of competition in a country where the major sports are volleyball and soccer.

In July the general public was given access to the local Brazilian ticketing site, which offered significantly lower prices than international resellers. By July 21, organizers were reporting 72 percent of available tickets sold but were hopeful sales would pick up as Brazilians tend to be late buyers.

Rio ticket director Donovan Feretti remained firm that regardless of how sales went, tickets would not be given away to bolster attendance.