Empty Olympic seats? I’ll show you empty seats.

Recently, lots of blogging and reporting about the empty seats at events up in Beijing. Well, down here in Shanghai we like to do things bigger – or, more empty, if you will. Case in point: A photo taken three minutes into this evening’s women’s soccer semi-final between Brazil and Germany.

Just to be clear: this was an Olympic semi-final, with the winner being guaranteed at least a silver medal, between the two finalists from the 2007 Women’s World Cup (held in China), both of whom hold a clear and evident disdain for the other. Oh, and the best female soccer player in the world, Marta, was guaranteed to be on the field. Yeah, who’d want to show up for that?

But it gets worse. I’d guess that 40% – 50% of the spectators were actually Shanghai schoolkids bused to the match and given free tickets. So, take another look at the photo, and then subtract.

No way to excuse this as an instance where sponsors, officials, and media didn’t bother to show up for their seats. This was, all in all, a failure to sell tickets. And it gets back to a point that I’ve made here ond here: that, if you take away Argentina‘s celebrity soccer gods, folks in Shanghai really can’t be bothered with this Olympics business. Even though, sheesh – it was a semi, for goodness sake.

[Addendum: Shanghai Stadium reportedly has 55,000 seats. Reportedly, because I’ve seen reliable sources claim 52,000, 53,000, and 80,000. The last, I’m guessing, is concert-seating.]


  1. I was at the other semi-final (US vs. Japan) last night in Beijing Worker’s stadium – it was pretty full (50,000+) just as full as the Italy Belgium men’s game two days before. But there was at least 4-5 very large danweis there.

    I was also at the Germany/Brazil World Cup game last year in Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium – and it was at least 80% full – so its not a Shanghai thing. Weird.

  2. You’ve probably seen James Fallows’ explanation for this, but I’ll put up a link anyway:

    How many of the people at the Germany/Brazil World Cup match were foreigners? I was in school then, and pretty much all the German exchange students went out to see the match.

    I attended the US-Canada women’s match, which was very empty. I attempted to buy tickets for the Argentina mens’ team game the next day (last Saturday) and was rejected on grounds that the game was sold out. From your photo in the Maradonna post below, it did look like that game was full. So maybe it’s just a dislike of women’s soccer?

  3. JT – Yes, I saw the Fallows item, and linked to it at the beginning of the post.

    Foreigners accounted for probably 50% of the crowd that wasn’t students comped into the event. There’s probably something to the notion that people don’t like women’s soccer as much. But, then again, Beijing had 50,000+ for a semi.

    I’m going to disagree with T. a bit. The first two Shanghai matches were double-headers, with Argentina featured in both games. Fans either came late, or left early, depending upon when the Argentina game was scheduled. Now, there’s a long-standing embrace of Argentine soccer in Shanghai, but I think there’s something else, as well: a love of celebrity and spectacle. No surprise to me that Shanghainese people would go out for a final, and not a semi – one is a prestige event, the other isn’t. That’s just Shanghai for you.

    Anyway, the Argentina v. Netherlands semi was full, yes. Great match, too.

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