Empty seats reserved for VIPs and athletes are seen at the Eventing Individual Dressage at the London 2012 Olympic Games in Greenwich Park on July 29, 2012. Organisers fought to quell growing public outrage on Sunday over empty seats across venues at the London Olympics. Empty seats were reported on Sunday including at the equestrian dressage at Greenwich Park, despite the draw of Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara Phillips making an Olympic debut. (Photo : REUTERS/Olivia Harris)
Organizers sought to quell growing public frustration on Sunday over empty seats across venues at the London Olympics, where China laid down an early marker with a world record win in the pool and a commanding early lead in the medals table.
Images of rows of vacant rows at football stadiums, Wimbledon, the aquatic centre and beyond has angered Britons who tried and failed to buy tickets in the buildup to the Games after being told they had sold out.
Like Us on Facebook
More empty seats were reported on Sunday including at the equestrian dressage at Greenwich Park, despite the draw of Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara Phillips making an Olympic debut.
Heavy rain after a hot, dry spell also put a dampener on outdoor events on the second day of full sporting contest, as did the announcement that Uzbek gymnast Luiza Galiulina was provisionally banned from the Games for a positive drugs test.
Olympic organizers launched an urgent inquiry into the seating fiasco to nail down precisely who had not taken up their places and why.
"It's infuriating to see so many empty seats on TV. Surely it can't be beyond the organizers to allow real sports fans to fill them up on a first-come first-served basis?" said Ed Shorthose, a London-based father of two who had been trying for months to get tickets to see the Games.
London organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe told reporters he thought the problem would resolve itself over time.
"I don't think this is going to be an issue, certainly it's not going to be an issue right through the Games," he said.
The embarrassment took some of the shine off the Games, where sport has begun in earnest after an exuberant opening ceremony on Friday night which thrilled Britain but also baffled much of the world because of its arty eccentricity.
China jumped to the head of the rankings with five gold medals overall, four of them on Saturday, the first full day of competitive sport at the July 27-August 12 tournament.
China made it five on Sunday when Guo Wenjun produced a near-perfect last shot to retain her Olympic title in the women's 10 meter air pistol shooting in a topsy-turvy final of nerve-jangling action.
She beat out France's Celine Goberville, and still to come is the women's synchronized three-meter springboard diving final in which few would bet against victory for He Zi and Wu Minxia.
China's Yi Siling was the first gold medalist of the Games in the 10-metre air rifle and compatriot Wang Mingjuan extended a 10-year unbeaten international record to win the women's 48-kg weightlifting crown.
Chinese swimmers Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen also took gold on Saturday, with 16-year-old Ye wiping more than a second off the world record in the women's 400 meter individual medley final.
Sun, who became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic swimming title when he took gold in the men's 400 freestyle, is overwhelming favorite to win the 1500 and is also targeting the 200, where he will square off against American Ryan Lochte.
Lochte grabbed the headlines on Saturday by eclipsing compatriot Michael Phelps in the 400 individual medley final and replacing him as the world's best all-round swimmer.
Lochte already has three gold medals from his two previous Olympics but is primed for a bigger haul this time with three more individual events and at least one relay still to come.
"I'm ready to rock this Olympics," the 27-year-old declared.
For Phelps, things can only get better after the man who swept eight golds at Beijing four years ago was forced into fourth position and missed out on a medal for the first time at the Games since he was a 15-year-old in Sydney in 2000.
The United States face a tough task in the 4x100 meters freestyle relay against an Australian team boasting the fastest two men in the world.
But there should be a medal of some color for Phelps, who is bidding to add three to his tally to overtake Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina's record haul of 18.
Like Phelps, host nation Britain is still seeking its first medal after world champion Mark Cavendish was outmaneuvered and upstaged in the cycling road race by Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov.
Britain's best hope is in the pool where Rebecca Adlington defends her 400 freestyle title, yet she only scraped into the final as slowest qualifier. She is up against Italian Federica Pellegrini and world number one Camille Muffat of France.
Britain also has a chance in the women's cycling road race where holder Nicole Cooke faces Italian world champion Giorgia Bronzini and Dutchwoman Marianne Vos, who is hoping finally to land gold after five consecutive world championship silvers.
By mid-afternoon on Sunday, the United States were second in the medals table after Kimberly Rhode took the women's skeet shooting gold.
The Italians were in third place after the men's archery team beat the top-ranked United States by a single point on the last arrow of the final and the fencers swept all three medals in the women's individual foil.
Day Two also sees the latest incarnation of the U.S. basketball "Dream Team", this time featuring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, beginning their title defense against France.
Tennis world number two Novak Djokovic of Serbia begins his quest for singles gold against Italy's Fabio Fognini.
Britain's Andy Murray returns to the court where he lost the Wimbledon final to Roger Federer this month for a first-round match against Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka.
Federer survived a scare in his opening Olympic singles match against Colombia's Alejandro Falla on Saturday before prevailing 6-3 5-7 6-3.
Serena Williams also breezed past Serbia's Jelena Jankovic in straight sets, with U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama cheering her on.