Yet more olympic rubbish.

15 05 2012
On Sunday the front page of Wales on Sunday carried a very worried article with an almost snappy headline;


“Poor ticket sales lead to fears Wales’ Olympics events could flop”

Poor ticket sales have led to concerns Wales’ Olympics events could flop

It has been billed as a flagship event for Wales and Cardiff.

But serious concerns are now being raised that Olympic football earmarked for the Millennium Stadium is in danger of turning into a damp squib.

The very first event of the games – a women’s football match featuring Team GB in Cardiff – has so far sold just 11,000 tickets, leaving most of the huge 74,500-seater ground empty.

We understand another football game in Cardiff has sold just 2,000 tickets – just 3% of the Millennium Stadium’s capacity.

And 259,000 tickets remain for the Olympics’ football games in total with 75 days to go until the opening ceremony.” 

If you read between the lines of the article you could see that it’s a non-story. Unfortunately olympic hysteria has turned this non-story into a story, just look at the urgent tone of the last sentence I have just quoted for evidence of this; “And 259,000 tickets remain for the Olympics’ football games in total with 75 days to go until the opening ceremony“. In real life two and a half months is surely long enough to sell some tickets, which, rather interestingly, is a point made later in the article by the spokesman for the organising committee;

“The spokesman…. said there is a long way to go for people to access tickets.”

Even though the journalists included evidence that showed the headline story was actually a non-story the editors still decided to employ a sensationalist approach. The dramatic language;  a series of quotes framed by conjecture and over-reaction, gave the article a fairly depressive tone.  This dramatic depressive tone turns a few unsold tickets into “The debacle of the empty seats”, a heinous stain upon  society, something that puts “the image of Wales” at grave risk,

“We can reveal today that senior political figures are concerned that tens of thousands of empty seats will be highly embarrassing for Wales and its capital. 

And business leaders said the number of tickets sold so far was “alarmingly low”, creating the real danger that events could be played out in front of an estimated global audience of 1.6 billion people in near-empty venues, “damaging not only the image of Wales but the Olympics as a whole”.

Apparently everybody was concerned about the grave threat to “the image of Wales”. Russell Lawson, The director of international trade body the Wales International Business Council and former head of public affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, said; “Instead we have the real possibility that events could be played out in near-empty venues, which damages not only the image of Wales but the Olympics as a whole.” Cardiff council’s leader-elect, Heather Joyce, said that thousands of empty seats would “not be a true reflection of Cardiff and Wales’ sporting heritage”

Tranquility and measured thought are often the first casualties of major event hysteria. They should remember that they are talking about a few empty seats at Olympic football matches not something majorly important for human society. If they had done a smidgen of research they would know that there are always empty seats to be found during an olympic football tournament;

I can’t remember people saying that images like this had ruined the reputation of Athens 2004. How is “The debacle of the empty seats” going to make Cardiff look bad?

Apart from an air of embarrassment the article also contained a heavy sense of being let down; “In April, organisers said ticket sales would pick up when the draw was made. But that hasn’t materialised.” The article also contained people moaning for the sake of moaning; ”Concerns have been raised that organisers have concentrated so much on London that other venues have been forgotten.”  Ooh those silly organisers, concentrating on the city that will host the games!!!

Disappointment means that there have to be scapegoats, Roy J. Thomas blames ”a lack of communication between Locog and Cardiff” Russell Lawson blames the choice of events on offer;  “However, (Team GB’s women’s team) playing against New Zealand isn’t exactly the biggest fixture in world football – so this might not help.

Political capital can also be made out of the situation. Bethan Jenkins said:“The failure to sell tickets to events here in Wales comes as a result of the fact that people in Wales feel disconnected from the Olympics………..Consecutive Labour and ConDem UK governments have failed to do the work necessary to make people in Wales feel they have ownership of the games.

The feelings of being let down stem from the widely accepted fallacy that the olympics movement is a fabulous gift horse. Roy J Thomas, director of the Cardiff Business Partnership and a director of the Millennium Stadium wholeheartedly believes in this idea; to him the olympics is a “positive thing for Wales ….. a success story for Wales in terms of economics.”  Bethan Jemkins, a Plaid AM, goes even further by demanding that; “…. it is important that the people of Wales are able to reap some benefit.”

Why should Wales reap benefits? Cardiff isn’t the main venue and we’re only talking about six or so football matches. Which rich visitors will be queuing to see Team GB v Uruguay or Mexico v Switzerland?  If the moaners had stuck to saying something like; “Well it will be fantastic to see elite sports performers performing in Wales, I can’t understand why people won’t come” I may have gone along with them but these sort of moaners always reduce matters to purely economic terms so I can’t.

In a contradictory mish-mash of an article the general tone; we should feel massively let down by the olympics failure to provide  us with loads of money, is pitted against quotes telling us we shouldn’t be surprised when the games let us down by the olympics’ failure to provide  us with loads of money . Dr Charles Smith-Brocca, an economist from Swansea Metropolitan University, points to parallels between the situation in Cardiff and the situation in Athens in 2004; One of their arguments was that football would spread the Olympic benefits outside the capital. But when I was there, there was not really much evidence on the ground to support that.”

In other words the non-story contains more evidence that it’s a non-story.

The tone of the article is so downbeat that sensible suggestions for solving the “debacle of the empty seats” are shot down. Cardiff’s Mayor elect suggests an eminently suitable solution: “My first thoughts were ‘let’s get them out to the schools’ This solution will give kids a chance to be part of historic sporting event that’s happening near their homes but the journalists see the problems in doing this;

Giving away spare tickets would appear unlikely, however, as it would likely anger sports fans who have already forked out at least £20……. Any decision on that controversial suggestion would be taken by UK Government ministers. But if this were to happen it would throw up logistical challenges, such as who to give them to and how to transport them to Cardiff ……”

What the fuck are the journalists moaning about? I distinctly remember that Cardiff has hosted quite a few sporting events with large crowds.

The worst bit of the article was the small paragraph that highlights what the organisers think about the “debacle of the empty seats”; they want to lecture us about our refusal to swallow the expensively produced bullshit that’s been offered to us;

Of further concern is the fact that the situation in Wales appears to be mirrored in Scotland, where the chairman of the British Olympic Association Colin Moynihan said this week he was “disappointed” that 90% of tickets for matches to be played at Hampden Park in Glasgow had not yet been sold.

He seems to be annoyed that people can think for themselves. You can almost hear him say “Jesus you ungrateful troglodytes what more did you want? We’ve brought the olympics to Britain’s cultural hinterland. We brought it direct to your doorstep, we tried to brighten up your miserable existences….. And, this is how you repay us!!!!” Look mush, I remember you when you were Maggie’s snotty little sports minister so don’t get uppity.

There could be hundreds of reasons why people haven’t been enthused by the olympic spirit. People could be annoyed by the hype. They could be annoyed at being told what to feel. They may not like the idea of a Team GB football team or it could be that they simply can’t be bothered to get involved. People may even have had the same thoughts as Dr Brocca-Smith;

“It’s unbelievable that we are spending all this money on monuments when we cannot afford basics and we are arguing about the cost of looking after older people in care…………… The other thing is that the Olympics support elitist sport, there’s no way it will benefit the majority of people who want to get themselves a little bit fitter.”

If the organisers are looking for tangible reasons why people might not seem enthused they should have a look at the advert I saw in the window of a Colwyn Bay travel agent on Saturday;

I had to look at the advert twice because I could not believe that someone is trying to charge £329 for a package such as this; two tickets for two events that probably aren’t that popular and a ONE night stay in London. To make it even less appealing, it looks like you have to make your own way to London. The advert illustrates how some people use major events to try and make a killing.

Instead of criticising the British people the organisers should have questioned the entire logic of holding major events instead. They should question the PR-led sporting landscape in which these events take place. They should question the logic of perpetual growth, in size and quality, of the games experience.

They certainly shouldn’t be having a go at people for not joining in with the party. They shouldn’t be having a go at the British people because the British people aren’t behaving in the way the British people are depicted in London 2012’s happy-clappy promotional films. The organisers should think about all that but they won’t, they’re the kind of people who want to be appalled by the desecration of official London 2012 merchandise;




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