Thin crowds "plagued the World Athletics Championships in Moscow for a second day in a row" Sunday, as one of the first in a series of large int'l sporting events being hosted by Russia "failed to attract substantial local interest," according to R-SPORT. Photographs and video footage during the competition’s opening ceremony Saturday -- when Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a welcome speech to athletes and spectators -- showed "large blocks of empty seats" in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, while "reports on Sunday suggested that most of the stadium's 78,000 seats had not been filled." Concerns over poor attendance were "voiced repeatedly during preparations for the event." Int'l Association of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack "criticized the Russian organizers for inadequate promotion" in April. Last week the Moscow authorities "attempted to give away 240,000 free tickets in a bid to boost crowd numbers." Between 80-85% of the tickets "had been sold for the whole event." Some "blamed the half empty stadium on a widespread ignorance about athletics in Russia, and other countries of the former Soviet Union." Ukrainian decathlete Aleksei Kasyanov said, "They don’t know this type of sport very well in post-Soviet countries. Although there are some serious fans, when you say ‘athletics’ people sometimes reply, ‘that’s the one on horseback, right?’" (R-SPORT, 8/11).
BUBKA BLAMES WEATHER: In London, Sean Ingle reported Ukrainian IAAF VP Sergei Bubka has "blamed the hot weather in Moscow for poor ticket sales at the World Athletics Championships." Bubka said that "the sun might have been a factor." Bubka: "It's a very sunny day and I know for Muscovites they always go to the dacha [second home], outside Moscow. Maybe some people have bought tickets and they don't attend. I will do my best to settle this issue as the crowd is most important" (GUARDIAN, 8/11). Also in London, Laura Williamson reported Bubka insisted that "'up to 85,000' tickets have been sold for the nine days of competition" and the IAAF is confident the final weekend will be close to a sellout (DAILY MAIL, 8/11).