The Olympics are one of the most popular sporting events in the world. So how is it possible that tons of seats are empty for even popular events?
Some tickets went to athletes' family members or VIPs. For most everyone else, the British Government demanded that fans go through a complex 13 step process, where they state which events they wanted to attend. Most (arbitrarily?) were turned down. Some were given tickets to other events, but many weren't interested in those.
No one, even those who got tickets to rhythmic gymnastics but didn't want to go...was allowed to make money reselling tickets. If they tried, they could be fined up to $7,800.
The result: empty seats. Because government didn't allow seats to be resold or purchased in an open market, there was inefficient allocation of seats. Tickets didn't get to those who really wanted to attend.
Only a government could take a popular sporting event, set up a "fair" system for tickets, and then disappoint fans, and leave embarrassing scenes like these.
Thank goodness the government doesn't dole out food.
Milton Friedman once said, "Put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand."