KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia, January 17 (R-Sport) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signaled that volunteers may be allowed to fill up empty seats at the Sochi Olympics next month.
In a worrying development for organizers, it was announced Thursday that around 30 percent of Olympic tickets remain unsold three weeks before the February 7 opening ceremony.
"Why should places go empty? It's better that they're filled, and occupied by people who love sport," Putin said on a trip to the mountain facilities at Krasnaya Polyana, where he met some of the 25,000 volunteers who are to staff Russia's first Winter Olympics.
Russian officials are eager to avoid the embarrassment of large swathes of unfilled seats being the backdrop to a project designed to boost the country's international prestige.
But tickets for 73 medal events, generally in the higher price bands, remained available via the online booking system as of Thursday, including for all Alpine skiing events and the men’s hockey bronze medal game.
Luxury tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies were also listed as available.
The London 2012 Olympics sold out tickets for every event apart from football, while the last Winter Olympics in Vancouver saw all but 110,000 of 1.5 million tickets snapped up. Some events in London suffered from empty seats, though that was put down to no-shows from corporate guests in areas reserved for sponsors.
Volunteers were used to fill empty seats to augment disappointing attendances for August's world athletics championships in Moscow and the world university games in Kazan in July.