Merritt echoes athletes concerns about sparse crowds

Moscow: Olympic 110 metres hurdles champion Aries Merritt echoed many athletes disappointment at the lack of spectators at the world athletics championships today at the Luzhniki Stadium.

The 28-year-old American - who is also the world record holder in the event - won his first round heat in Moscow on Sunday in front of a sparsely populated crowd, which followed on from a disappointing attendance on the opening day on Saturday.

Organisers have claimed 80 percent of tickets have been sold for the nine day championships, and will be hoping for a full house later on Sunday for the men`s 100m semi-finals and final, with the biggest drawcard in the sport Usain Bolt appearing.

The average price for tickets is 1000 rubles ($30) which is regarded as affordable for ordinary Muscovites.

"Obviously I`m not happy to run at an almost empty arena," said Merritt, who has had an injury-affected season.

"I`d like the venue to be fuller so I can feed off the crowd`s energy.

"In London (at last year`s Olympics) it was very important to feel that the crowd is with you. To feel the energy the crowd gives you.

"It`s exciting and you`re happy to be at the stadium.

"But I guess it`s too early and I will give the crowd a `bye` this time.

"I just hope the venue will be packed for the final on Monday."

British star Mo Farah had said that the contrast between his emotional victory in the Olympic 10,000m final and his win in Saturday`s world final was stark in terms of the crowd but added he just got on with it.

"It`s hard work," said the 31-year-old, who will bid to repeat his Olympic double gold in the 5000m later in the week.

"Sometimes it`s just easier to go out in the race and do it like my 1500m race in Monaco where I just went out there and ended up running a personal best," he added.

Slovenia`s 2008 Olympic men`s hammer champion Primoz Kozmus was bitterly disappointed by the turnout on Saturday.

"The arena and sector are great. I just hope there will be more of a crowd during Monday`s final," said the 33-year-old, who is bidding to regain his world title.

AFP

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