The Yawn Olympics
So when does the World Cup start?
Games Found Lacking, in Fans and Atmosphere
By LYNN ZINSER
Published: February 15, 2006
TURIN, Italy, Feb. 14 — When the American speedskater Jennifer Rodriguez walked into Oval Lingotto on Tuesday for the 500-meter race, she said she could barely believe her eyes. In two previous Olympics, Rodriguez skated in front of roaring crowds, in Nagano, Japan, and in Salt Lake City.
This time, a smattering of flags waved and clumps of fans were scattered around the oval's 6,807 seats.
"I'm very disappointed," Rodriguez said. "I came out and it was like half-empty, or half-full, depending on how you look at it. But I feel like the Olympics should be sold out."
Rodriguez's sentiments were being echoed in other sports, where scores of vacant seats brought flashbacks to Athens's empty stadiums and its lack of enthusiasm for many Olympic events.
So far, organizers and the International Olympic Committee express nothing but happiness with the crowds, but the sparse attendance, including at the two premier events Tuesday — the men's combined skiing and the men's figure skating short program — is startlingly reminiscent of the embarrassment of Athens.
"I would feel very bad if I was an Italian skater," Rodriguez said. "You expect to hear the roar of the crowd. It's a little bit dead out there."
The oval's misery has plenty of company. Freestyle skiing failed to crack the 50 percent mark in attendance at the women's moguls qualifying event Saturday, the opening day of competition, and the atmosphere drooped. The men's figure skaters performed Tuesday night in front of huge gaps of empty seats, and ushers urged people to move down and fill out the lower sections, just as they had done in Athens at the women's gymnastics.
For every sold-out event like men's snowboarding, there is a half-full luge site — even when Armin Zoeggeler was favored to win, which he did, earning Italy's first gold medal. Four years ago in Salt Lake City — where luge is no more popular than it is here — fans piled four deep along the track and filled the bleachers as well.
Even the men's downhill Sunday, which was announced as sold out with 8,784 people in the stands, struck athletes as less than the festive atmosphere they usually enjoy. In Salt Lake City, more than 15,000 crammed at the bottom of the mountain and created a constant ruckus.
"Everything is going fine," said Giuseppe Gattino, spokesman for the Turin organizers. "Last week we had sold 700,000 tickets, and now we have a total of 789,000, so it is going very well. In the last two weeks, we have seen an explosion of passion."
NBC did a story about the Turino Calcio team, and how 60+ years after a tragic plane crash, how the locals want the new team to make it back to Serie A, the top Italian league. They seemed a LOT more excited about that than the Olympics.
The fact is that the event the vast majority of Italians are interested in starts in June in Germany. The World Cup dwarfs the Olympics. The Africa Cup is getting as much play as the Olympics in Europe, more in Africa.
If people are going to spend money, they're far more likely to save that money to go to Germany than to watch people skate or ski.
The reason that the Olympics feels so flat in the US is also due to the rise in soccer and the X games. Downhill Skiing is boring compared to the X Games. And there are now enough Americans who care about the World Cup that the Olympics have been reduced to a TV show.
Also, I don't think NBC has ever been as good as ABC in covering the games. That also hurts. But the fact is that the same audience who cares about international sports can revel in soccer.
And then there is the joy of watching woman's curling
posted by Steve @ 2:58:00 PM