Rows upon rows of empty seats. That was the dominant image of the first few days of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The seats are empty because the fat cats and the preening Olympic officialdom have seats reserved for them, but they can’t be bothered to turn up.
TV footage has shown huge areas of the venues left empty during sold out events - angering people who were denied tickets.
Olympics spokespeople said these are the seats reserved for the “Olympic family”, whether they show up or not. But who are they?
The don of the Olympic family is Count Jacques Rogge - president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). “We live in the real world, absolutely we do,” he said.
In the real world, where Jacques lives, he was picked up from the airport in a limo and given a police escort through the exclusive Games Lanes. He is staying for the duration of the Olympics in the five-star Hilton hotel in London’s Park Lane.
It’s not just him. The IOC usually occupies a grand chateau in Lausanne, Switzerland. But for the Games it has block-booked the whole hotel - and turned it into “Fortress Hilton”, with airport-style security.
After all, the IOC includes representatives of dictatorships like Prince Nawaf Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and Prince Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait. Not to mention Prince Albert II of Monaco and Henri, Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Beyond the princes, there are over 10,000 officials and other hangers-on involved in the Olympics. The £1 billion Olympic Village houses nearly as many hangers on as athletes.
If these VIPs want to watch an event, they don’t queue up - they just show up and get front-row seats. That’s what it means to be part of the family.
Keep It in the Family
The other family members are the massive corporations making money out of sponsoring the Olympics. That much is clear to anyone who visits the Olympic Park.
To get in, first you have to walk through the Westfield shopping centre. Then there’s a long bridge into the site - and the whole thing is a massive ad for Coca Cola. On the other side you’re greeted by a huge Adidas billboard.
And in the toilets, someone has painstakingly sticky-taped over the logos on all of the thousands of hand-driers across all the venues. The hand-drier firms are not Olympic sponsors.
Visa cards are the only credit or debit cards accepted at the Games. But football fans were left hungry and thirsty after its special card machines broke inside Wembley Stadium.
They were told they’d have to pay in cash - but Visa had also had all their rivals’ cash machines removed.
Still, at least they got in. The police have admitted that before the Olympics opened they somehow managed to lose the stadium’s keys.