rio olympics

First gold for Brazil spurs last-minute ticket sales, but many events still struggling to fill seats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 2:11am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 8:18am

Brazil’s first gold medal has boosted Olympic ticket sales and organisers expect attendances to pick up in coming days, although some venues including the Copacabana beach volleyball arena are still struggling to fill seats.

Judoka Rafaela Silva, who grew up in Rio’s notorious Cidade de Deus favela, burst into tears on Monday as she held up her medal to a roaring crowd as the Brazilian national anthem played.

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“There is nothing better for ticket sales than when the country wins its first gold,” Games spokesman Mario Andrada told reporters on Tuesday.

“Brazilians, as has been widely said, are late buyers, but it’s impossible to resist when you have the Games at home,” he said.

Some 100,000 new tickets were taken up on Monday, much better than the average of 10,000 per day about two weeks before the Rio 2016 Games kicked off. Around 82 per cent of tickets available for Monday were sold, Andrada added.

“We wish we could have done this before but we’re not complaining, we’re looking to the future and we’re going to sell more and more,” he said.

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A late surge could help compensate for a shaky start, with organisers admitting this week that only Friday’s Opening Ceremony had sold out.

Even iconic venues like beach volleyball on Rio’s famous coastline have had a good chunk of empty seats. Not even Brazil’s soccer team in their first match at the Games attracted a capacity crowd.

Prices for the Rio tickets range between US$10 and about US$1,150 for the Opening Ceremony. More than half the tickets cost US$17 or less, about half the price of London 2012 tickets.

But for many poor people in Brazil, a developing country, those prices remain cruelly out of reach.

The Latin American powerhouse is also struggling with its worst recession since the 1930s and there is strong opposition to hosting the Games amid the crisis.

In addition, long delays at security checkpoints on the first day of full competition frustrated spectators.

Brazilians tend to show up late and trickle in and out of events, but exuberant crowds have helped compensate for empty seats.

“I would say that it seems really loud [on the court], so I can’t imagine if it was full and everyone was cheering that loud,” said American tennis player Madison Keys.

“As long as you can feel the energy and you feel that the crowd is really into it, I don’t think it really matter how many people are there.”