Lord Coe and Locog should stop trying to pretend they can solve the problem of empty seats at Olympic venues. They cannot.
Coe hinted as much at his press conference yesterday as the swathes of empty seats led to a public outcry.
His explanation: “There are tens of thousands of people at this moment within the accredited ‘family’ that are trying to figure out what their day looks like, where they are going to be asked to go to, frankly working out how you divide your time.”
Given that most of us worked out months in advance where we would be during the Olympics, it seems strange this “family” is either so busy, or so dysfunctional, it cannot decide, even hours earlier, whether it will go to gymnastics or swimming.
But then this is no ordinary family. This is the Olympic family, the most extraordinary family on earth. At its head are the members of the International Olympic Committee. But the family extends far beyond that. It includes officials from the 205 Olympic nations, whose athletes paraded before us on Friday night, and the people who run the international federations of the 26 sports being played in London.
The brutal truth is this Olympic family owns the London Games. We, the British people, do not.
Yes, we will have spent very nearly £10billion to stage them but all that has given us is the right to lease the Games for 18 days. At every step of the way, the Olympic family, as the “freeholder”, has told us what we can do. In effect, this has extended to telling us what sort of curtains we can hang up in our leasehold property.
Within the family there are, of course, strict divisions. So the IOC members decide which city will host the Games. But, once a city gets the Games, each international federation decides how its sport is run.
The Olympic family has developed quite a cosy uncle-nephew relationship and, to glimpse this, take a good look at the next medal ceremony. The medals will be presented by an IOC member but the flowers will be given by a member of the international federation. It is measure of how well regulated this family is that a nephew will never encroach on an uncle’s territory.
And, during the Games, sport is not the only thing on the minds of the family. London is the centre of a ferocious bidding war. Representatives of nine cities from around the world are in town trying to woo the family members in their attempt to secure either the 2020 Olympics or the 2018 Olympic Youth Games.
The cities range from Istanbul, Buenos Aires and Poznan to our own Glasgow, which wants the Youth Games. This means many meetings in hotels all over London. Given that, can you really blame a member of the family if they forget they have a ticket to see Rebecca Adlington swim?
Naturally, the sight of empty seats angers the millions of people who tried in vain to get tickets for the Games but the fact is we cannot change how the Olympic family operates.
Instead, let us rejoice that, where we have control, we do things better than any other nation. Danny Boyle proved that in a masterly fashion on Friday night. I have been to many opening ceremonies but I cannot imagine another nation which would have had the imagination, let alone the courage, to present its head of state talking to a fictional character. And then be seen to jump from a helicopter.
Beijing’s opening ceremony was grander but there was no word of Mao Zedong, as if the Chinese leadership was ashamed of the man who made modern China. We, in contrast, can have a bit of fun with our monarch and share it with the world.
And the Olympic Park, built on wasteland, demonstrates that the country which, in the 19th century gave the world modern sport, in the 21st century can construct sporting venues where both athletes and spectators feel at home.
I only wish the park had catered for the fact that it does rain but that is a small niggle in an otherwise great British success story.