Thursday, August 19, 2004

No Olympics, thanks; we're Greek 

What if you gave the Olympic Games and nobody came?

We're used to by now to the bizarre sight of empty stadium stands and small groups of spectators huddling together, looking almost embarrassed to be spoiling the pristine, virginal venues with their insignificant presence. Now Professor Richard Cashman has an interesting opinion piece in the
"Australian" explaining what went so wrong in a space of just four years:

"Although Sydney had less spectator capacity and a smaller aggregate of 6.7 million spectators [than Atlanta's 8.7 million], it set a benchmark for the proportion of tickets sold -- more than 90 per cent... [I]nternational tourists represent only a small proportion of the Olympic crowd. It was reported that there were 111,000 Olympic tourists at the Sydney Olympics. If each tourist attended 10 events, they made up less than one-sixth of the spectator figure. The vast majority of spectators were from the host city, state and country."
So what's wrong with Athens? The Greeks aren't showing up because they're simply not interested in the Olympic Games, argues Cashman. It might have sounded very appropriate to the International Olympic Committee to give the 2004 Games to Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic idea almost three millennia ago, but the sport honchos seemed to have overlooked the very basic consideration that there isn't much of an Olympic tradition in modern Greece.

Memo for the future: if you're organising a major international event, make sure that cold hard economic considerations get ahead of nice warm symbolic ones.


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