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Rio Olympics 2016: Venues hit by sea of empty seats, fans complain about missing key events

A swathe of empty seats as Rafael Nadal plays Federico Delbonis in Rio. Photo / AP
A swathe of empty seats as Rafael Nadal plays Federico Delbonis in Rio. Photo / AP

The weeks and months leading up to the Rio Olympics saw a storm over Russian doping and concerns over the spread of the Zika virus.

But with the action now underway, the start of the Games has seen some venues dominated by swathes of empty seats as fans struggled to navigate huge queues around the Olympic Park.

The rugby sevens, tennis and boxing saw athletes compete with the stands half empty on Saturday and while some venues did see an increase in fan numbers throughout the day, the situation must be cause for concern for Rio chiefs.

Empty seats at the women's sevens. Photo / AP
Empty seats at the women's sevens. Photo / AP

On the first full day of proper competition, fans were forced to queue for hours across the Olympic Park with Games organisers admitting they had had problems with security which forced many into a long wait in searing temperatures.

"We had problems in the Olympic Park and we apologise for everybody standing in line outside the venues," Games spokesman Mario Andrada said.

"We need to upgrade that part of the Games. We moved people to speed up the security checks and within the next hours we will be in much better shape."

With a huge demand for Olympic tickets, the empty seats were an embarrassment for Games chiefs.

A lack of fans at the women's basketball. Photo / AP
A lack of fans at the women's basketball. Photo / AP

The Copacabana venue for the beach volleyball saw just a few hundred spectators watching initially and while that number did improve as Saturday wore on, it was by no means an isolated case.

Sportsmail's boxing correspondent Jeff Powell reported there were no more than 500 people watching the fighting at the Riocentro Pavilion while it was a similar story at the Deodoro Stadium for the sevens.

British medal hopeful Heather Watson also played in front of plenty of empty seats at the Olympic Tennis Centre as she won her first match of the Games.

Part of the problem seems to have been issues with security, which saw fans struggle to navigate the long queues.

Games organisers blamed the situation on a lack of coordination between various groups of security personnel, including the police, and different staff and private security firms.

Empty seats plague a men's football match. Photo / Getty
Empty seats plague a men's football match. Photo / Getty

Some Olympic fans had to wait for an hour and a half to take their seats, missing out on some events in the process.

Natalia Carvalho, 28, a Rio resident who missed seing Brazilian gymanst Arthur Zanetti compete, told Reuters: "I don't believe it. It's absurd, ridiculous.

"I always said that what I most wanted to see was Zanetti in the rings. It's a lack of respect for the fan that bought tickets. It's a shame."

The teething problems with security were a blow for Olympic organisers with Andrada vowing they wouldn't be repeated moving forwards.

"We hope to clear the lines in the Olympic park," Andrada added.

"We feel sorry for the people who are there. Some time in line is acceptable but there needs to be a balance."

- Daily Mail

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