The Washington Post reports that people are staying home in droves:
Chinese Olympic organizers acknowledged Tuesday they were struggling to handle an unforeseen and baffling problem inside Summer Games venues and at the showpiece Olympic Park.
Not enough people.
Two weeks after announcing they had sold every one of the record 6.8 million tickets offered for the Games, Olympics officials expressed dismay at the large numbers of empty seats at nearly every event and the lack of pedestrian traffic throughout the park, the 2,800-acre centerpiece of the competition.
U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps won his third gold medal Tuesday in an arena with at least 500 no-shows, and there was a smattering of empty seats Wednesday morning as he captured his fourth gold in the 200 butterfly. The U.S. softball team played in a stadium only about 30 percent full on Tuesday, while the day before, 10 of 18 venues did not reach 80 percent capacity, officials said. Meantime, crowds of tourists and fans have been thin in the extravagantly landscaped Olympic Park, which holds 10 venues including National Stadium.
To remedy the problem, officials are busing in teams of state-trained “cheer squads” identifiable by their bright yellow T-shirts to help fill the empty seats and improve the atmosphere. They are also encouraging residents to apply for access to the heavily secured park.
There are also fewer foreign visitors than expected:
[Some] said the more strict visa restrictions in place this year could be keeping foreign ticket holders away. Across Beijing, hotels and tourist sites are reporting below-average attendance for August. Many of the foreigners in Tiananmen Square, under tight security for the Games, are not individual tourists but part of Olympic delegations.
“Business is worse than at this time last year,” said a receptionist at a 22-room hotel in Beijing’s Chongwen district, where rooms cost $28 a night. “It’s the season for traveling and last year the hotel was full. The Olympics should have brought business to Beijing, but the reality is too far from the expectation.”
Whatever the cause, the attendance problem has blindsided Chinese organizers, who expected jammed arenas for even obscure sports and throngs across Olympic Park.