Postcard from Rio: Where are all the fans?

John Niyo
The Detroit News
French supporters attend the medal ceremony for the round 2 of the Equestrian Jumping team at the Olympic Equestrian Centre in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Location, location, location.

Rio’s Olympic Stadium is not in the Olympic Park. It is not in a very inviting neighborhood, either.

And given all the traffic issues in this city of 6 million-plus, it’s not all that surprising the seats are mostly empty for daytime track events this week, and only half-full — or slightly more — for the nighttime sessions.

Add in the high ticket prices in an economic recession here in Brazil, all the pre-Olympic fears scaring off potential visitors, the endless lines for admission and concessions, and a general lack of interest in track and field in the host country, and you have a recipe for embarrassment.

“If we find any more ingenious way to sell tickets we will do so,” spokesman Maria Andrada said.

This is not merely a Rio problem. Organizers in Beijing routinely filled in huge gaps in seating with volunteers in 2008. So did officials in London four years ago, though there was no need for track.

But in Rio, they need the money to cover their budget. The limited public funding is gone, and the upcoming Paralympic Games are in jeopardy.

Then comes news an IOC official, Ireland’s Pat Hickey, was arrested for his part in an alleged ticket scalping scheme.

The problems keep coming.

John Niyo