How many times the past 4 baseball seasons have you watched a Mets home game on SNY and seen acres of empty seats, many of ’em in Citi Field’s priciest sections? If you’re Mets Executive Vice President Of Lying David Howard, you might do well to consider the c0smetic approach employed by London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games chief Lord Sebastian Coe, who sought military assistance to deal with the embarrassing spectacle.

More than 50 soldiers took seats at the North Greenwich Arena on Sunday morning when they were left empty by the “Olympic family”. Some of the troops, working at the Olympics to provide security, said they were scheduled to start shifts but instead were offered courtside seats at the basketball arena to watch the USA v France.

Despite featuring superstars including Kobe Bryant and being close to a sellout with the public, there were around 40 empty seats in the arena reserved for Olympic and sporting officials. “We’re seat fillers,” said one of 15 soldiers drafted on Sunday afternoon. “They asked who likes basketball and we put our hands up.”

The London organising committee (Locog) refused to rule out offering seats to G4S staff if the problem persists. The action came after the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said on Saturday the empty seats were “very disappointing” and Locog launched an investigation. Organisers indicated international sporting federations are the main cause of the problem in the accredited areas, and the International Olympic Committee has told them to deal with the issue.

Pictures of athletes competing against banks of empty seats were beamed around the world on the first day of competition but Lord Coe, the Locog chairman, was initially dismissive of the problem, saying on Sunday: “Those venues are stuffed to the gunnels.”

He denied that having troops fill seats appeared shambolic. “If we have the army sitting there on rest periods we can ask them if they want to sit in there and watch it,” he said. “We take it seriously. I don’t want to see swathes of those seats empty.”