LONDON It was the middle of the afternoon at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, and Roger Federer was in the house.So was Victoria Azarenka, the No. 1-ranked female tennis player in the world, as well as former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, sporting her new Danish red shoes.You cant buy a ticket to Wimbledons Olympic tennis events, we were told.Yet, as Federer prepared to serve, a few empty rows of seats hovered over his right shoulder. Same for Azarenka.And by the time Wozniacki got onto Centre Court for her second-round match with Yanina Wickmayer, rows of vacant seats were in every corner of the famed Wimbledon grandstand.They couldnt all be outside, having tea. Could they?No, but stop tsk-tsking the British. It isnt them that are failing to show up for Olympic events in conspicuous numbers.On the contrary. They want in. Theyre at the gates, it seems, and as the handmade sign says, they want two. Or one. Or whatever youve got.Even Prime Minister David Cameron got his nose into the fray Monday, noting the no-show tickets problem and saying, We can do better.Or can we?As the British PM probably has learned by now, an increasing number of Olympic tickets has been going to sponsors ever since the Games embraced its new economic model post-Los Angeles in 1984. At every high-profile event at these Olympics, youre likely to see some fresh-faced volunteer shepherding a group and holding a placard aloft that reads, Visa or P&G or, because its the Games 900-pound gorilla, NBC.Sponsors and network TV rights-holders pay for the Olympic Games. The host cities and governments merely lay out the red carpeting new venues, new roads, police, et al.The prime seats are trade-offs for all that money changing hands.And sometimes the sponsors guests show up. Sometimes they dont. The same goes for the tickets that are set aside at the discretion of each of the 200-plus competing nations.If the national Olympic committee of North Korea, for example, doesnt want to attend that days canoeing events, those two (or four or whatever) seats will be empty.No-shows have been around since the Christians fought the lions.The London organizing committee, LOCOG, announced that it will begin attempting to reclaim and resell unused tickets for certain events.Some 3,000 were placed on sale Monday.The mistake that Londoners, commentators and headline writers are making, however, is equating the empty VIP seats with a lack of Olympic interest on UK fans part. The moral outrage being shown on UK television proves it isnt so.The empty seats just look bad, the Brits are saying. And the hosts dearly want to show the world that they have embraced everything about these London Games.Including the canoeing.My life at the CircusFor a town thats been feeding and indulging revelers for more than 2,000 years, London has a surprisingly early closing hour.If the clock strikes midnight, for example, youd better be sure that the London Underground still has a train to take you back to your hotel.Shops tend to close at 6 p.m. Restaurants are vacuuming the carpets by 9.No worries, I was told by a LOCOG volunteer. Go to Piccadilly Circus.Plenty to do there, he said, with a wink-wink.Despite its name, there are no trained animals at Piccadilly Circus.None that I could see, at least.Its a neon intersection, a gateway to Soho and adjoining entertainment districts. And as midnight approaches, I discovered, its also home to a witchs brew of fast-food joints, over-served tourists looking for a taxi and how shall I put this? local business women who have just come out to enjoy the night.Thus, like a typical American, in an effort to remain inconspicuous, I took out my iPad and tried to Google for a late-night restaurant.Thats when the London policeman approached.Wouldnt do that here if I were you, sir, the bobby said. Keep your gear close, if you know what I mean. I looked around and I saw what he meant. Spiked hair. Bad tattoos. Angry piercings. It looked like an Oakland Raiders game.Theres a nice Italian place over there, the policeman advised. I might get a table, he said, if I hurried. Be careful, the London bobby said, as I walked across the street, neon blaring down, at Piccadilly Circus. And thats how I ended up eating at Pizza Hut.No sale at the Wimbledon ShopClearly, no self-respecting tourist goes to Wimbledon to purchase a ceramic mascot with London 2012 stamped on his belly.But as the sign on the Wimbledon Shop said, No Wimbledon items. Sorry.Ah, the Great Licensing Wall of the Olympics is at it again. It makes even a national landmark like The All England club cover up its few, discrete logos. It makes you drink Coke, not Pepsi. Eat Cadburys chocolate, not a Snickers.No problem with that. But why did Olympic organizers feel the need to cleanse and flush all Wimbledon-branded items from the souvenir shops?Sorry, the young woman at the kiosk said. There are some licensing things going on there, Im afraid.At the big Wimbledon Shop at Court One, nonetheless, there were long lines of tennis tourists waiting to buy fancy Olympic T-shirts ($27), Olympic lunch bags ($21), Olympic crystal tennis balls with the London logo on them ($105) and on and on.Wheres all the purple and green Wimbledon stuff, I asked a store clerk?Would you believe, she said politely, that youre not the first person whos asked me that today?I bought a poster. A ball cap. I passed on the $2,800 official London Olympics replica torch.Sorry for the detourWelcome to London. Theyre sorry.No, the Brits have been wonderful, smiling Olympic hosts. But theyre sorry.Thats what they keep saying, at any rate.Theyre sorry for the weather. Theyre sorry because they just told you itll be a long walk to your Tube station. Theyre sorry Lord Coe doesnt have a 24-hour hotline to attend our every American need.And theyre sorry, we were told upon leaving The All England Lawn Tennis Club on Monday, that the train station we were intending upon using to return home was closed.Sorry, said a LOCOG volunteer wearing a big red foam finger that was pointing in the opposite direction from where I had planned to go.There is no easy way to get to the tennis grounds at Wimbledon. Never has been.For decades, tennis fans have taken the District Line to Southfields and then walked nearly a mile on a narrow cobblestone sidewalk to the gates of Wimbledon. Nobody really seems to mind its Wimbledon.But as the volunteers explained, a train had broken down at Southfields on Monday and the station had to be temporarily taken off-line. With volunteers spaced every 30 yards or so, each with a big red foam finger pointing the way, we were directed to the nearest alternative train station.About 10 minutes, a volunteer said.Oh. Thats all? No problem, I said.Ten uphill minutes later, there was no train station in sight.About 25 minutes more, a volunteer said, pointing to another five blocks of acutely uphill climbing.It was almost an hour before we finally reached Wimbledon Station the Tube stop for the posh village of Wimbledon, not the tennis club.The GPS on my mobile phone, which didnt account for the long wait at the station, said it was 1.6 miles from where we started.I was a sweaty mess by the time I got to the train boarding platform.We were greeted by smiling volunteers.Sorry, one said, obviously looking me over.Me, too, I told her.Its never easy to get to Wimbledon.