Why Are There Empty Seats At The Closing Ceremony? The Vacant Chairs Had People Wondering

Fireworks explode at the start of the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP / VANDERLEI ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images

As with its predecessors, the closing ceremony at the Olympic games in Rio was a joyous and celebratory event. However, a lot of viewers at home were left scratching their heads just minutes into the event, because amidst all of the singing, dancing and endearingly annoying music, NBC's live broadcast appeared to show swaths of unoccupied seats in the arena. That's pretty unusual, given that every Olympics' closing ceremony is a highly sought-after and high-profile event.  So, why did the Olympic stadium have empty seats?  

It's not totally clear, but the weather may have had something to do with it. It was raining and windy in Rio when the closing ceremony kicked off — a lot of athletes and attendees could be seen wearing ponchos — and this might help explain why the arena appeared so empty. On the broadcast, many of the empty seats appeared to be clustered towards the front of the stadium, and according to Twitter user Chris Campbell, who attended the ceremony, that's where the rain was hitting the hardest. 

It's entirely possible, then, that the stadium was just as full as it was supposed to be, and that the people who would have otherwise been sitting in those empty seats were actually just somewhere else in the stadium. 

[Twitter Embed: https://twitter.com/chriscampbellX/status/767508347146862592]

Some also speculated that the empty seats belonged to the athletes — many of whom, of course, were busy participating in the actual ceremony. 

Whatever the reason, it's worth noting that this isn't the first time empty seats have been a topic of discussion at the Rio games. Olympic officials said that around 80 percent of tickets were sold, and yet they also said that 11 percent of pre-sale tickets, in addition to over 55 percent of those that were handed out for free to underprivileged children in the Rio area, weren't used. A whole lot of earlier events did indeed appear to be under-attended, and there's still no concrete answer as to why. Popular theories include traffic, events starting too early or too late, and ticket-holders opting out at the last minute due to news stories about crime and contaminated water in Rio. 

Still, rain and possible under-attendance notwithstanding, just about everybody at the event appeared to be having a grand old time. Ultimately, those empty seats may have had a bigger impact on veiwers watching from home than the people at the closing ceremony itself.

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