LONDON (AP) - Troops, teachers and students are getting free tickets to fill prime seats that were empty at some Olympic venues on the first full day of competition.
Organizing chief Sebastian Coe answered widespread criticism Sunday by predicting that seats left unused, largely by Olympic and sports officials, will not be an issue as the games proceed.
"It is obvious, some of those seats are not being used in the early rounds," he said at a briefing.
Spectators sit among empty seats before Egypt’s soccer match against New Zealand at the London 2012 Summer Olympic on Sunday.
He declined to blame Olympic sponsors, whom he had earlier promised to "name and shame" if they did not use their allocations. Sponsors, including Coca-Cola and Visa, defended their use of allotted tickets - 8 percent of the 8.8 million available tickets.
The issue is sensitive for Olympic organizers and British sports fans after hundreds of thousands of people failed to get tickets in an initial public ballot.
"There is not a single person who thinks it is shambolic," Coe insisted, adding no one would object to free tickets for military personnel who "stepped up to the mark" this month to help solve a security staffing crisis at venues.
Coe's organizing team has long promised to fill venues and avoid a similar problem from the Beijing Olympics.
He said he was "jammed in shoulder to shoulder" with Olympic officials at swimming finals Saturday evening. He also pointed to record crowds lining the men's road race route, and for rowing events at Eton Dorney.
"Those venues are stuffed to the gunnels. The public are in there," Coe said.
Yet broadcast images of signature Olympic events, such as gymnastics and swimming, revealed rows of empty seats for qualifying rounds Saturday. Tennis at Wimbledon's Centre Court was sparsely attended just weeks after the Grand Slam event sold out.
Army personnel attended gymnastics sessions Sunday morning at North Greenwich Arena during down time from security duties.
"There are a whole bunch of the military actually sitting in those seats at the moment. We can and we have moved them in there," Coe said.
Students and teachers from east London neighborhoods also would get late calls for free tickets, having already been accredited in a planned reallocation program. Some ticket holders will get upgrades inside venues, Coe said.
Some blame for the opening day embarrassment was falling on "accredited people," including the Olympic family, athletes, and some sponsors and media, organizers said.
Coe said it was typical at Olympics for sports and national team officials to be "dragged to any number of venues," and be too busy to attend events in the opening days. "I don't think you will be seeing this as an issue long term during the games."
He went on to defend sponsors, whose legal rights to protect their brand at the Olympics often fuel criticism.
"I am not sure naming and shaming is what we are into at the moment. Sponsors are turning up," Coe said.
Organizers said they will use further tactics to boost attendance and offer more opportunities to see Olympic events.
Releasing tickets for walk-up sales allowed for about 1,000 seats to be sold for gymnastics Saturday, and the Wimbledon policy of "recycling" tickets has been adopted.
Coe said almost 300 people saw handball matches Saturday by buying the cheap tickets.