But other venues in both the Olympic Park and the so-called “mountain cluster” high above Sochi were plagued by sometimes large swaths of empty seats. And there were a lot of echoes in the empty corners of the arenas for events such as women’s hockey and speedskating. Even one of the Games’ hippest events, the action-sports event known as slopestyle snowboarding, appeared to have hundreds of empty seats, even though organizers declared it a sellout in the 6,250-seat Rosa Khutor Exreme Park.
The women’s hockey crowd of 4,136 for the U.S.-Finland game on Saturday was roughly 60% capacity, and 4,386 watched Canada beat Switzerland. Shayba Arena, the smaller of Sochi’s two hockey venues, has a capacity of 7,000.
Some of the lackluster attendance has come during preliminary competitions, which many fans, sponsors and even members of national sporting federations prefer to skip. On the opening day of the 2012 London Olympics, televised images of empty seats at popular events such as gymnastics led thousands of ravenous British sports fans—frustrated for more than a year in their quest for tickets—to complain bitterly to London’s Olympic organizers. Those officials later reclaimed some tickets that were going unused by sporting federations and sponsors and sold them to the public.
Sochi organizers said this week that about 80% of their ticket inventory had been sold by the end of January.