Brazil’s first gold medal has boosted Olympic ticket sales and organizers expect attendance to pick up in coming days, although some venues including the Copacabana beach volleyball arena are still struggling to fill seats.
Judoka Rafaela Silva, who grew up in Rio’s notorious Cidade de Deus favela, burst into tears on Monday as she held up her medal to a roaring crowd as the Brazilian national anthem played.
”There is nothing better for ticket sales than when the country wins its first gold,” Games spokesman Mario Andrada told reporters on Tuesday.
”Brazilians, as has been widely said, are late buyers, but it’s impossible to resist when you have the Games at home,” he said.
Some 100,000 new tickets were taken up on Monday, much better than the average of 10,000 per day about two weeks before the Rio 2016 Games kicked off. Around 82% of tickets available for Monday were sold, Andrada added.
”We wish we could have done this before but we’re not complaining, we’re looking to the future and we’re going to sell more and more,” he said.
A late surge in attendance could help compensate for a shaky start, with organizers admitting this week that only Friday’s Opening Ceremony had sold out.
Even iconic venues like beach volleyball on Rio’s famous coastline have seen a good chunk of seats stay empty, although Brazilian crowds tend to show up late and trickle in and out of events.
Prices for the Rio tickets range between $10 and about $1,150 for the Opening Ceremony. More than half the tickets cost $17 or less, about half the price of London 2012 tickets.
But for many poor people in Brazil, a developing country, those prices remain cruelly out of reach.
The Latin American powerhouse is also struggling with its worst recession since the 1930s and there is strong opposition to hosting the Games amid the crisis.
In addition, long delays at security checkpoints on the first day of full competition frustrated spectators, some of whom missed the competitions they had wanted to see.
Not even Brazil’s soccer team in their first match at the Games attracted a capacity crowd and on Sunday the women’s sevens tournament was played in front of at best half-filled 15,000-seater Deodoro stadium while only a few thousand spectators watched the women’s cycling road race.