August 18, 2016 / 6:05 PM / 3 years ago

More than half of free tickets unused at Rio Games : organizers

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - More than half of the almost 300,000 tickets given away to school children for the Rio Olympics went unused, organizers said on Thursday, after struggling with many empty venues throughout the Games.

2016 Rio Olympics - Olympic Village - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 06/08/2016. Sports fans queue to buy tickets to Olympic events. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Empty seats at most venues have been a problem from the start with many Brazilians staying away from the Olympics and organizers failing to solve the problem on time.

Rio Games spokesman Mario Andrada said 280,000 tickets were given away to school children as part of a social project to get them to attend sports that are less popular in Brazil, but half of those were never used.

A total of about 6.1 million tickets were issued for the event.

“From the general public 11 percent did not show up,” Andrada told reporters. “Even the public who bought tickets outside the door (of venues), of them seven percent did not show up at the venues.”

“That confirms a suggestion that we had, that people were buying tickets to get into the (Olympic) park, not necessarily focused on a given venue.”

But the biggest no-show came from the school kids, who stayed away in large numbers.

“The social program, which distributed a lot of tickets, what we got was 55 percent of those who got free tickets did not show up. The reason, in this case, is the fact that kids are on holiday.”

He said there was no central point for children to gather and be transported to the venues.

“We kind of left this a little to each family and in some cases to an NGO (non-governmental organization),” Andrada said.

While organizers have said they exceeded their financial target from ticket sales, the low turnout, even at the athletics events, has been one of several major headaches they encountered at the Olympics, along with security, transportation and venue problems.

Sales for the Paralympics are even worse at just 12 percent of tickets sold, with the mayor of Rio unable to buy a chunk of tickets as planned due to electoral regulations.

“As we all know, the mayor had committed to buy a number of tickets. However, electoral justice prevented him from buying those tickets, so the tickets were returned to the pot and the number (of sold tickets) has decreased,” Andrada said.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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