(Reuters) - After a remarkable turnaround in less than two weeks, international athletics chief Lamine Diack said on Thursday he had been told to expect full houses for the evening sessions at next month’s athletics world championships in Beijing.
On July 18, Diack had expressed his concern at the slow rate of ticket sales for the Aug. 22-30 championships at the Bird’s Nest stadium in the Chinese capital and urged local organizers to do more to promote the event.
A further statement from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) on Thursday, however, said sales now indicated the stadium would be packed for the evening sessions and “90 percent capacity” for the morning heats.
“This is a magnificent effort from everyone involved with the local organizing committee,” the delighted IAAF president said.
“I can only reiterate what I said recently, I am now convinced that we will have a great atmosphere in the Bird’s Nest stadium for the world’s top sporting event of 2015, and I would like to thank our friends in China ... for stepping up their efforts in the promotional campaign.
“I am sure that these championships will capture the imagination of everyone who is in the stadium in person and the hundreds of millions of viewers on television around the world; and that they will leave a lasting impression and legacy, especially on the youth of China.”
Large numbers of empty seats, especially on the morning of competition days, have long been a problem for the IAAF’s biennial showpiece event.
That Beijing had already proved during the 2008 Olympics that athletics could attract big crowds to the Bird’s Nest was a major attraction when the Chinese capital bid to host the event.
Organizers of sporting events in Beijing have in the past bused in groups of spectators to fill empty seats when ticket sales have not gone as well as expected.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Greg Stutchbury