25 7 / 2012
25 7 / 2012
Mark Parryman, The Guardian | Olympic tickets: Locog has sold out but the stadiums will be half-empty
Result! Yesterday lunchtime I went online and successfully booked my three tickets for the Men’s Hockey Bronze Medal match. So now much as I want Team GB to be competing for hockey gold, a little part of me wouldn’t mind if they’re battling it out for third place. Especially because for the three of us, it’s costing £225 to see a sport which until now we’ve never taken much interest in.
That’s the Olympics at its best, a festival of global sport with an incredible history which — if you have the time and the money — we’ll all be want to be part of. But the hockey tournament’s failure to sell out is also testament to all that’s wrong with how Locog have organised the 2012 Games and the vanity project model of the IOC they have so dutifully reproduced.
I can’t name any of the current crop of Team GB hockey players but I do know enough to know that the 2012 GB team, men and women, are serious medal contenders. Surely the hockey matches should have been among the most popular on the 26-sport Olympic programme?
A home Games should be organised on the basis of involving the maximum number of people. Anything else and we’re left watching the Olympics via the remote, from the sofa. Why not give the hockey 16-team, mini-World Cup to a region to host?
Use the existing football stadiums and massively increase the capacity: 15,000 for an Olympic tournament is shamefully unambitious. Reduce he price of the tickets to provide them at the lowest possible price, instead of for the few at the highest price Locog thinks it can get away with.
For sport after sport, the Olympic Games could have been decentralised, given to a city or region to invest civic pride and energy in, but precious few new facilities. Existing football stadiums could be put to so many different uses to accommodate a decent chunk of the 26 sports. And use our natural facilities, too – how crazy is it to locate the mountain biking in Essex, a county with hardly a decent-sized hill let alone a mountain, rather than the Lake District, North Wales or the Highlands?
A better Games for all is what I wanted to see. London 2012 has ensured that won’t happen in my lifetime.
Mark Perryman is the author of Why The Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be (available from orbooks)
29 6 / 2012
As the Olympic Torch arrives in Britain today ahead of a nationwide relay, Mark Perryman questions the claim of “A Games for All.”
Beginning its long route around Britain the Torch Relay is one of the few examples of decentralisation and free-to-watch events that could have transformed the 2012 Olympics into a Games for all.
There is little doubt that the sight of the Olympic torch as it passes through a village, town or city up and down the byways, with photo-opps at famous landmarks will ignite popular interest and huge media coverage.
But the scale of that enthusiasm reveals the lack of ambition behind the 2012 model for the Olympics. In my new book Why the Olympics Aren’t Good For Us, And How They Can Be, I propose Five New Rings for the Olympic symbol. The first, and most important, of these is decentralisation. As a mega-event football’s World Cup has its problems too with new stadia sometimes built with no obvious future likelihood to be full again once the tournament is over. But the singular advantage for the hosts of a World Cup over the Olympics is it is spread all over the country, and sometimes more than one. In this way the global spectacular becomes not only a national event but a local event too. The Olympics is an entirely different model, apart from the yachting and the football tournament every single event is London-based, most of Britain will have no contact with the Games except a fleeting glimpse of the Torch relay as it passes through.
Decentralisation could have changed all this, and saved enormous amounts on new builds too. Glasgow and Edinburgh, Cardiff, Manchester, the North-East, Yorkshire and the Midlands all posses world-class stadia and arenas with huge capacities and multi-use possibilities. North Wales, the Lake District and parts of Scotland have the natural landscape perfect for events including the canoe slalom and mountain biking. Badminton is one of the finest three-day event venues in the world; it’s not in London so it’s not being used for 2012.
Avoiding those costly new builds by using existing facilities would not only magnify the Olympics’ local appeal but vastly increase capacities too. With imaginative reconfiguring Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium could have hosted the showjumping, Manchester’s MEN Arena the boxing, between Glasgow and Edinburgh share the Hockey tournament, the Midlands Stadiums host the Beach volleyball, the North-East already hosts the Great North Run, why not stage the Olympic Marathon there, give Yorkshire the Football tournament and so on.
Decentralisation enables this spread of venues with far bigger capacity than many hosting the events in London. And with Scotland, Wales, regions and cities hosting entire parts of the Olympic programme an effective campaign combining civic pride and participation in the adopted sport could have been mounted. Decentralisation could also afford an extension of the Olympic programme to include events that are both nation-wide and free to watch. Why not an Olympic Tour of Britain multistage cycling race, and a Round Britain sailing race? The potential for crowds lining the streets and the quaysides to watch, for free, as the Olympics comes to their town or port would have been huge.
The book that I have written is neither anti-Olympics nor is it against sport. I am a fan of both. But I am opposed to what the Olympics have become, the false promises made on their behalf and the chronic lack of ambition in the way they have been organised. My argument is that a different Olympics isn’t only possible, but better. If our only experience of the Games in this much hyped once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to host them is watching them on the TV, well they might as well be anywhere.