David Cameron met with his “Olympics Cabinet” today to discuss, among other things, what can be done about the spectacle of rows of empty seats at Games venues. Various events, including swimming and even the popular beach volleyball, have not been full, despite huge public demand for tickets.
The problem, Downing street explained today, is not so much the sponsors (as some have suggested), but accredited Games officials, who have a certain allocation for each event, but don’t necessarily turn up.
So what did the prime minister tell the hapless official from the organising committee (Locog) who briefed him about the problem this morning? Not much really, says Number 10 – there’s not much he can do. A spokesperson said:
It is disappointing.
The 1968 protest which the UK fears Argentina may copy
A week ago, the Sunday Times revealed Whitehall fears about Argentina using the Olympics as a platform for protest against British control of the Falkland Islands. The paper reported:
Ministers are worried about a possible demonstration by Argentine athletes similar to the one staged at the 1968 Games in Mexico City by African-American athletes at the men’s 200m medal ceremony.
Any symbolic gesture by team members would be broadcast worldwide, fuelling tensions between Britain and Argentina. Diplomatic relations between the two countries are already strained.
Since then, Christina Kirchner, the Argentinian president, has tried to reassure anxious Brits and Olympic officials by telling her athletes not to do anything “stupid”. She said:
We’re not stupid. We don’t need to use sport to stand up for our rights. We’ll defend our rights in appropriate forums, like the UN.
Well, just in case the athletes didn’t get the message, Jeremy Browne, the foreign office minister for South America, has put further pressure on the Argentinians. In an interview with the FT, he made it clear the British government would see such a protest as a serious escalation of hostilities (emphasis mine): Read more