They stuck out like sore thumbs and were plainly visible on television - empty seats.
Tickets to some venues at the SEA Games were said to be "fast selling", sometimes "unavailable" or even "sold out", but come kick-off, empty seats were still spotted, earning the ire of fans who struggled to secure a ticket via the online portal and even after making their way down to ticket booths to try their luck.
"I understand that not every single seat can be sold because you have to set aside seats for VIPs, sponsors, Games Family, athletes and officials, but I don't think they were going to be put at the Gallery and King George's sections anyway," said Hairul Sukaime, who has struggled to watch the national Under-23s at the Jalan Besar Stadium.
"Fans want to buy tickets and support their athletes and teams. So they have a right to be upset when they see empty seats, but they're still told tickets are sold out or unavailable."
In response to queries from The New Paper, Toh Boon Yi, chief of community engagement for the Singapore South-east Asia Games Organising Committee, called for understanding, explaining that tickets can only be sold very close to the time the event kicks off and sometimes after it starts - due to no-shows.
"We acknowledge that there could be instances where seats are not occupied, while a competition is taking place.
"This could be due to reasons such as a lower than expected number of athletes and officials taking up the pre-allocated seats; spectators not turning up despite having purchased a ticket; and spectators leaving midway through a competition," he said.
Swimming was another sport that also witnessed unfilled seats.
Blogger Koh Poh Hu, 39, was told tickets were "unavailable", only to realise that a friend of his managed to get them through the online portal, closer to the event.
"All I am asking for is to know if the tickets are still available or not," said Koh.
Toh explained that ticket availability reflected on the portal takes into account seats that have been "set aside for athletes and officials of the 11 National Olympic Councils that are directly involved in the SEA Games", a typical arrangement across all major Games, pegged at about 30 per cent of total seats available.
He went on to explain that the status "unavailable" is reflected on the ticketing portal when a "transaction has yet to be completed".
"We may resell seats due to no-show at the venues, subject to on-ground assessment. We would like to reiterate that only seats meant for the general public and not those allocated to athletes and officials, will be released back for sale," said Toh.
"The possibility of seats being resold in this instance is very low and we seek the public's understanding in this regard."
This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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