By Pritha Sarkar
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Yevgeny Plushenko was supposed to be one of Russia's biggest draws as the nation hosts its first Winter Olympics but even the presence of the controversial showman failed to fill the figure skating arena on Thursday.
The 12,000-capacity Iceberg Skating Palace was more than half-empty when Plushenko first took to the ice for his warm-up before the start of the team event, which is making its Olympic debut.
Although more fans had filed into the arena by the time he took to the ice for his performance, Russian officials would have noted that thousands of seats around the arena remained empty for one of the Winter Olympics' blue-riband events.
Plushenko, however, pronounced himself delighted with the noise made by those who were there.
"It was incredible," said the former Olympic and world champion. "Sometimes it helps when people clap but today I felt kind of dizzy, (the noise came) from there, from there, from there, from everywhere.
"But it's my fourth Olympic Games, so it was fun. It's something new for me."
(Editing by Mitch Phillips)