Organizers of the cursed (two reported cases of food poisoning todate, latest affecting 21 staff and volunteers) Singapore Youth Olympic Games (YOG) claim that the 320,000 tickets for the 26 sports were completely sold out, yet the rows and rows of unoccupied seats prove that fact is indeed stranger than fiction. Unlike the bank fiasco, there is no outsourced IT related problem for a scapegoat.
In anticipation of a lukewarm reception for the non-event, the Ministry of Education (MOE) had earlier bought up 80,000 tickets to prop up the dead horse even before the race started. Although issued free, some schools extorted a $5 "refundable" deposit for the tickets to "reinforce this message". Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Primary school Clifford Chua insists this was not an attempt to coerce his pupils to support the games. At Anglo Chinese School, principal Richard Lim charged $1 or $2 to "encourage them to treasure the ticket". Parent Md Alkaf's take: "It's not the right way because if the student is really interested, he would turn up".
If that's not enough to rile you up, the kids are being blamed for the empty seats - it is alleged they do not stay for the duration of the sessions. North Vista Secondary's Julia Edison tried to reason,"They might have to stay past dinner, and we have to think about their meals". Hey, even if all the 80,000 MOE issued ticket holders fail to turn up (and risk threats of disciplinary action and detention classes), that's only 1/4 of the seats affected. The real situation at ground zero is even more pathetic.
Forum writer Alan Hart wrote in to report that venues were 60 percent empty. Debra Tan, watching from her television set, could see the badminton venue was 50 percent empty. Leong Soon Hoong was actually at the Singapore Indoor Stadium for 6 hours, and saw less than 20 percent occupancy, most of whom were school children on tow. Commenting on her experience with the half empty stand facing her at the Jalan Besar stadium, Carn Oh wondered if "the tickets appear to have fallen into the wrong hands". Or were there 320,000 tickets sold in the first place?
To muddy the murky waters further, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sport Vivian Balakrishnan has instructed venue managers at the various sites to resell tickets to walk-ins if seats are still not occupied after a session has started. "Even if it means kicking someone like myself or the officials out of the official seat," he boasted. The temptation must be pretty strong to go out there right now and buy a ticket just to kick those officials, especially if it's Balakrishnan, but isn't it illegal to occupy a seat paid for by someone else? Unless that guy got a refund or something. Else someone could get into a fight over the seat, someone could fall down, someone could get killed. You know, like over the bar-top dancing thingy?