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Low attendance at track championships may be worry for Sochi Olympics

August 19, 2013|By David Wharton
  • Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt said he wasn't used to running in front of the rows of empty seats he saw in Moscow for the track and field world championships this month.
Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt said he wasn't used to running in front… (Paul Gilham / Getty Images )

Talk of doping and gay rights weren't the only distractions at the recently completed track and field world championships.

Vast rows of empty seats at the Moscow venue left some wondering if fans will turn out for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi early next year.

Only two-thirds of the Luzhniki stadium was filled for the men's 100 meters on the opening weekend, prompting Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt to give the competition a 7 out of 10 for success.

"I'm used to going to the 100 final with the stadium rammed, just packed, so that was different," Bolt said at a Sunday news conference.

Outside issues hovered over the competition with a number of top-level athletes -- including sprinters Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell -- missing because of failed drug tests.

There was also debate over Russia's new anti-gay legislation, which bans discussion of gay rights around children and supporting gay rights through parades or other public events. The International Olympic Committee has asked for assurances that the law will not be enforced against athletes next winter.

Sochi officials said they were not concerned about inconsistent attendance at the track championships, according to the website Around the Rings.

Even Bolt was encouraged by growing crowds as the meet progressed. The stadium was filled to see him win the 200 meters and lead his country to victory in the 400 relay.

"It's been a different championship, not the best but I think over the days it got better," he said. "Over the days they really changed a few things -- a lot more people got more relaxed, a lot more people started smiling, a lot more people were in the stands so it picked up in the end."

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