Olympic-sized flap over empty seats

Spectators sit among empty seats before Egypt's group C men's soccer match against New Zealand at London Games Sunday AP Photo/Jon Super

(CBS News) LONDON - Huge blocks of empty seats have been seen in television coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games, much to the surprise and annoyance of British taxpayers - whose money is paying for the London Olympiad - and to thousands of sports fans who couldn't get tickets.

Ticket distribution has been described as a bit of a fiasco here. Normal people can't buy tickets and Olympic committee members who have them aren't using them.

"It's completely ridiculous," said one frustrated Brit. "We can't get any tickets and we see on the news that there's so many free places available, as well. So we are very disappointed."

Other Olympics have been plagued by similar woes, for similar reasons.

In the actual competition, Americans won two more gold medals.

But the world's top-ranked gymnast and a heavy favorite to win gold, American Jordan Wieber, stumbled, and a U.S. relay team came up short in the pool.

If everybody won who was supposed to win, there'd be no point holding the games.

Complete coverage: London 2012

But Wieber dramatically failed to qualify, beaten out by two teammates, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, who were supposed to be behind her on the depth chart.

"I think, from the very beginning, we're all looking very strong, and I knew it was going to be close between the three of us," Wieber said. "In the end, it is what it is."

Similarly, first lady Michelle Obama was on hand to follow one of the stories of these games: whether swimmer Michael Phelps would repeat his record medal haul of four years ago.

The answer: No.

He finished out of the medals in the individual medley, an event won by his rival, Ryan Lochte, who's emerging as a possible new poster boy of these games.

The U.S. team in the freestyle relay was a hot favorite, too, but lost out to an inspired swim by the boys from France.

Among the notable American winners so far -- Dana Vollmer, who set a new world record in the women's 100 meter butterfly.

And Kim Rhode, the skeet shooter, won gold and became the first American to win a medal in five consecutive Olympic Games.

"It's just overwhelming," she said. "It's just something. You're just like pinching yourself. Is this real? It's just incredible."

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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