Under 100,000 spectators have attended Beijing Games, organiser says

BEIJING, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Just 97,000 spectators have attended events at the Winter Olympics, a Beijing official said on Saturday, the second-to-last day of the Games, after organisers decided not to sell tickets to the public due to COVID-19.

Crowds have been sparse at most competitions, although some, such as figure skating and Big Air, managed to have some of the buzz of a big occasion, with small crowds augmented by large numbers of Games-related personnel inside the Olympic bubble.

The Beijing Games are taking place inside a "closed loop" that separates competitors, team staff, media and others from the general public.

Instead of selling selling tickets, organisers distributed them to selected groups of people who also had to adhere to strict coronavirus protocols before, during and after the Games.

The crowds were generally far smaller than the 30% capacity an International Olympic Committee (IOC) official had earlier said was hoped for, with members of the public separated from Games personnel at some venues by physical barriers.

Zhang Jiandong, Beijing's vice mayor and vice president of the Beijing Games organising committee, told a session of the IOC that 40,000 spectators had attended the opening ceremony - about half the capacity of the Bird's Nest Stadium.

He said 12,000 media were on hand to cover the Games.

At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, ticket sales lagged initial expectations but nonetheless exceeded one million.

Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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