Still, the empty seats could be a dispiriting preview of what the sport will look like when Bolt retires after the 2017 world championships.
He runs here again Thursday and it’s likely the crowd will approach—if not achieve—capacity.
Tickets are expensive, ranging from approximately $80 to more than $200 on some nights and $120 to more than $300 on others; this in a country that is in a deep economic recession.
The stadium is in a hardscrabble neighborhood far from other Olympic venues; many of the homes on nearby streets have razor wire fencing and there is a massive police and military presence around the stadium that creates some air of safety but dulls the fun factor.
RIO DE JANEIRO — American middle distance runner Jenny Simpson sees only the track, an eight-lane 400-meter oval, whether in her hometown of Boulder, Colo. That sameness provides a comfort that she likens to the scene in the movie Hoosiers, when actor Gene Hackman, portraying a small-town basketball coach, shows his team that the basket in the big arena for the state finals is 10 feet high, just like in their own little gym back home, in order to quell their nerves. Simpson, who turns 30 next week, ran not only with tactical brilliance but also with career-defining speed.
“I look at a track,” says Simpson, “and it’s home for me.” On Tuesday night at the Rio Olympic Stadium, Simpson won a bronze medal in the 1,500 meters, becoming the first U. After the field dawdled through the first 700 meters, Simpson ran her final 800 meters in one minute, 59 seconds, faster than she has ever run an 800-meter race in her life.
And she might not have noticed that vast sections of the stadium were left almost empty, a sea of blue chairbacked sears laying idle in the night.
But on the evening of Simpson’s greatest performance, praiseworthy and historic, there were far too few live witnesses to the event.They are athletes, trained to ignore external distractions. “I like to enjoy what I’m doing out there,” said U. javelin thrower Kara Winger, who failed to qualify for the final in her event.“So I’m pretty aware of what’s going on in the stadium.Tuesday night’s crowd was the worst yet for a night session, and anecdotally, the worst for an Olympic track and field evening session, dating back to at least Barcelona in 1992.Notably, even in the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, which are not generally remembered fondly, track and field sessions were sold out in both the morning and evening.Health and safety warnings might have caused track fans from the United States, Europe and Asia to stay away.