Five things that threaten to undermine a ‘successful’ Olympics for London | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Five things that threaten to undermine a ‘successful’ Olympics for London

Felix Keith is worried that some of the less positive aspects of the Games will taint it for spectators...

The spectre of empty seats has been a massive negative of the Olympics

The Olympics always receive immense media coverage, but now we’re hosting the greatest show on earth the eyes of the world are truly on Team GB, the organising committee, the capital and the UK itself. Although the media will be generally reluctant to look negatively on such an important event for the country, there are aspects that they can and might not be able to avoid so easily. Instead of leaving a positive legacy, London 2012 may be remembered for less desirable reasons:

1. The medal tally. The most important aspect; success at a sports event will be judged by medals. It might not necessarily be the number of medals - for example the bronze medal achieved by the men’s gymnastics team was clearly a huge success for Team GB - but come August 12th the hosts are expected to have collected a respectable number of medals. In Beijing Great Britain finished 4th - only beaten by the super powers of China, USA and Russia - but already the medal target of 48 is looking unreachable. The British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan has already had to reassure the press and public by pointing out that there are many more events to come. He is right - GB’s strong suits of rowing, cycling and sailing are yet to finish and the first gold has now been won.

2. Empty seats. This issue has already left many people very angry. It also reflects badly on the organisers, with Lord Coe the recognisable face at the brunt of public frustration. The numbers corroborate the public’s feelings: 8% of tickets dedicated to sponsors, 12% to the National Olympic Committee and 5% to the ‘Olympic Family’. People have also reported problems with the online booking system. It also seems that disinterest is to blame. For example, the country’s most beloved game, football, still has approximately 200,000 tickets unsold and available. It looks bad from the perspective of people all around the world watching on television and even worse for those unable to purchase tickets. The IOC has now decided to give tickets away to students and soldiers in an attempt to fill seats.

3. The economic effect. The Olympics were sold to the sporting sceptics by the promised economic boost London and the UK as a whole would receive. The hope was that with the influx of spectators and tourists to the capital there would be a dramatic increase in spending. London 2012 was billed as a helping hand out of the recession. And even if that wasn’t the case the secondary effects would still be beneficial to us: millions of viewers would be turned on to the prospect of the UK as an economic power, able to put on an amazing spectacle. The jury is still out on this issue. We will have to wait and see if this dream comes true, but some are already disillusioned.

4. Crazy commercialism. This, unlike some of the others, doesn’t pose a massive threat to the successfulness of the games. In fact, in economic terms it was extremely profitable. But the extreme prominence of names like BP, Coca-Cola and Samsung across the Olympic park and beyond has drawn disbelief and heavy cynicism from all angles. Only officially accepted brand names are allowed inside the Olympic park and it has even been suggest that people would not be allowed in sporting a rival brand.  It may be unavoidable in the world we live in and won’t affect the games themselves, but it still bears criticism.

5. Badly behaved athletes. This is, in many cases, out of the control of the officials and has in fact so far been dealt with well. This doesn’t mean they won’t be remembered and associated with London 2012.  The ugly head of doping conspiracy has raised its head in the form of accusations made against Chinese swimming prodigy Ye Shiwen. There have also been two athletes sent home for the misuse of Twitter: Swiss footballer Michel Morganella posted a racist message after a 2-1 defeat to South Korea and Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou for a similar rant about African immigrants. Perhaps most memorable though is the South Korean fencer Shin Lam who defied the officials by refusing to leave after controversial defeat in the final second. Even in the badminton, there was the awful spectacle of teams looking to deliberately lose their matches to avoid a higher ranked opponent in the knock-out rounds. Hopefully, this bad sportsmanship will disappear the longer the Olympics go on.

Felix Keith is a sport writer and studies ancient history at the University of Birmingham. (@FelixKeith)


1st August 2012 at 12:55 pm

Last Updated

1st August 2012 at 12:56 pm