By ROB PREECE, DAVID WILLIAMS, CHRIS GREENWOOD and KATHERINE FAULKNER
Prized Olympic tickets entrusted to foreign delegations are being openly sold by touts on the streets of Britain, it emerged last night.
They are cashing in on the huge demand for seats by selling tickets sent overseas by Games organisers.
The revelation came as a row raged over embarrassing scenes of banks of empty seating at many Games venues – including last night’s swimming finals.
Last night Scotland Yard said every illegal seller arrested so far had held tickets despatched overseas to national committees and official re-sellers.
One of the touts held is from Germany, another from Slovakia.
Plenty of room: The scene at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park on Saturday, on the first day of swimming events
The discovery raises further questions about the way in which precious tickets are allocated by the International Olympic Committee.
And it will fuel anger among millions of British sport fans who have been left watching events on TV because they failed to get a seat in last year’s ballot.
Lots of empty rows at the Aquatics Centre in Stratford yesterday, even as Rebecca Adlington swam in her 400m freestyle heat and final
Earls Court in west London was virtually empty yesterday for Great Britain's volleyball match yesterday
Last night, as an official probe was launched into the scandal:
Shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell said those not using their seats should be stripped of them.
Olympics boss Lord Coe claimed venues were ‘stuffed to the gunwales’ and dismissed pictures of the seats as ‘holiday snaps’.
Organisers insisted the empty seats were not allocated to sponsors, claiming they were unused by athletes, officials and the media.
Troops, students and teachers are being drafted in to sit in the empty seats to prevent a repeat of the embarrassing scenes.
Pointing out the gaps: Soldiers fill empty IOC seats for the women's gymnastics yesterday
Wimbledon: There were even plenty of spare seats for Andy Murray's winning match yesterday
All quiet: Rows of seats lay empty during the football match between Egypt and New Zealand at Manchester United's stadium, Old Trafford
The Yard confirmed that about 20 people had been arrested attempting to sell tickets since the opening ceremony on Friday.
Yesterday spectators who bought tickets for the Olympic Park, because all venues inside were sold out of lower-priced tickets, had the frustration of watching pictures on the big screen of unfilled seats.
But a prickly Lord Coe insisted the ticketing process had worked.
He even dismissed pictures of empty seats as ‘holiday snaps’ before admitting troops and students could be used to fill gaps.
‘We take it seriously,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to see swathes of those seats empty and that’s why we will make sure, where we can, people are in those seats when they are not used.’
Watching on: This group of soldiers were invited to watch the Gymnastics events
The London 2012 chairman added: ‘Let’s put this in perspective. Those venues are stuffed to the gunwales. The public are in there.’
Initially, the empty spaces were blamed on ‘no-shows’ from blocks given to sponsors but yesterday the finger was pointed at the athletes, media and sports federations, who cannot be bothered to use their entitlement to a seat at the venue.
Designer Paul Chandler, 42, who travelled down to the Olympic Park from Nottingham with his family, added: ‘Standing in the wet watching pictures of empty seats on the big screen, we feel betrayed.’
Gymnastics: Serving men and women fill empty seats during the Artistic Gymnastics competition yesterday
Sally Pookey, 31, who lives less than a mile from the Olympic Park, said: ‘I felt disgusted when I saw all the gaps in the stands.’
Last night, Team GB cyclist Geraint Thomas said: ‘It’s quite sad, seeing all the empty seats.’
Lord Coe revealed yesterday how troops, students and teachers were being drafted in to help end the embarrassing spectacle of empty seats at Olympic venues.
The Locog chairman said fans with tickets could have them upgraded so they can sit in more expensive areas reserved for VIP members of the 'Olympic family'.
He added that tickets for sports held in double sessions, such as hockey, basketball, water polo and handball, were being recycled and re-sold as people leave.
This system is similar to the one employed at the Wimbledon tennis championships, where spectators leaving show courts can hand back their tickets to be bought by someone else
Recycling: Lord Coe said that tickets for sports held in double sessions, such as hockey, basketball, water polo and handball, were being re-sold as people leave
He said: 'It's not easy to ask people (in the accredited Olympic family) at the beginning of the Games exactly how, where and when they're going to be in those seats.
'This morning was a very good example, we looked at gymnastics, we could see at this moment there are empty seats in the accredited area - the rest of the venue is looking pretty good this morning, there's a good atmosphere.'
All by myself: A spectator sits among empty seats as he waits for the start of the final session on the first day of the swimming competition at the Aquatics Centre
'So we were able to move those troops from - I'm not quite sure whether they were on a rest period or whether it was a transition from work through to a rest period - but they're sitting there enjoying the gymnastics.
'We can and we have moved them in there.
'Yesterday, we got pre-accredited students and teachers from the local boroughs. We were able to put 115, 120 into a venue.'
Sparsely populated: Allowing fans to fill empty seats would end scenes like this at the Aquatic Centre
A MoD spokesperson said: LOGOG has kindly offered service men and women working on venue security to make use of unutilised seating when they are off duty. These seats will be made available to venue security personnel to utilise on a voluntary basis when off duty.
Olympics organisers had to call in extra military personnel before the Games after private firm G4S failed to provide enough civilian security guards.
Deserted: Gymnast Pierre Yves Beny of France competes in front of empty seats in the North Greenwich Arena
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