China busing in government-trained “cheer squads” to fill empty seats at Olympics

Just like the Oscars have “seat-fillers” to hide the empty seats when people go to the bathroom, the Chinese are busing in state-trained “cheer squads” to fill the surprising numbers of empty seats at the Olympics.

Dressed in identical bright yellow t-shirts, the cheer squads are meant to improve the Olympic atmosphere and avoid embarrassing television shots of all the no-shows at the Games. As the Washington Post notes, “The U.S. softball team played in a stadium only about 30 percent full on Tuesday, while the day before, 10 of 18 venues did not reach 80 percent capacity.”

Officials blame the poor crowds on everything from the weather to strict visa regulations to spectators not wanting to watch the less exciting sports.

Beijing hotel owners, who were expected to be some of the biggest beneficiaries of the 2008 Olympics, have been underwhelmed by the amount of business the Games have brought. From the Washington Post: “‘Business is worse than at this time last year,’ said a receptionist at a 22-room hotel in Beijing’s Chongwen district, where rooms cost $28 a night. ‘It’s the season for traveling and last year the hotel was full. The Olympics should have brought business to Beijing, but the reality is too far from the expectation.'”