Early doors

And so 7 years and 3 weeks since we were awarded the games, the London Olympics is upon us. How could anyone in Great Britain not be excited by the next 18 days featuring the world’s greatest athletes? And here we were, ready to experience the opening events. Whisper it quietly, but the London Olympics didn’t start with the multi-million pound opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium, but actually started on Wednesday in Cardiff when Team GB ladies took on New Zealand. Even the official Olympic website suggests the games start on the 27th July – as if someone is embarrassed by the fact that football even exists in the games.

It has hardly been a surprise that virtually every game outside of London or not featuring Team GB has struggled to sell tickets. I have argued on these very pages about the logic in using such big stadiums in the far flung areas of the United Kingdom. Those romantic few told me that the residents of Glasgow and Cardiff would flock to watch the likes of Honduras, Morocco, Belarus and Gabon because it was “the Olympics”. Last week, LOGOC took the decision to remove over 500,000 unsold tickets for the football tournament from sale and simply close down parts of the stadiums, obviously making sure that the TV facing seats were full.

It is too late to argue the merits of using smaller grounds closer to London for the football (Reading, Southampton, Brighton for instance), but it still leaves a bad taste in the mouth that such a logical outcome was ignored. However, that hadn’t stopped me heading north of the border to notch up event one of ten I would be attending during the games. Hampden Park would be our destination for a double bill of Morocco v Honduras, and then a little throw-away tie between Spain and Japan. I mean, who would want to watch Spain these day? What have they ever won eh? Dull, negative football. Give me Allardyce route one anyday! Who wants to see the ball on the pitch. There is a million times more room to hoof it in the air….I’ll stop now.

Despite my frequent trips north of the border, Hampden Park has never featured on the TBIR radar for a game (great tour and even better museum) so when it was announced that games would be held in the Scottish National Stadium it was too good an opportunity to miss, especially as tickets to any events in the proper Olympic venues were impossible to get last year. One thing you could not complaint about was value for money – £61 for four tickets for a double-header of international football. Of course a year on and tickets can be acquired for just about any game – the football was to be the first of TEN events that we would see in a 12 day period during the games (and we will bring you action from all 10 right here). But confusingly, wherever you went, all the signs/websites/newspaper articles said the Olympic games was due to start on Friday 27th July with the opening ceremony. The website told us Big Ben was to chime 40 times on the first day (i.e Friday 27th); the countdown clock was to the 27th July and all of the official records say the games run from Friday 27th July to Sunday 12th August. Continue reading

I bet we are all excited now!

“Ladies and Gentlemen.  Let me introduce to you our special guests who will be making the draw today….Ex-Welsh international and the most annoying man on the TV/Radio – Robbie Savage.  Next, another Premier League “battler”,  I give you Kevin Gallagher.  And finally, a very special guest.  World Cup winner, twice FIFA Golden Boot Winner.  A man who has played for the best teams in Spain and Italy.  Fat Ronaldo.”

Not only is the whole idea of playing the Olympic football in cities with nothing to do with the games, let alone different countries quite bizarre, but was that the strangest line up you have ever seen at one of these events.  Quite what Ronaldo thought of it all I do not know.  Did he, for just one spilt second think Savage was a girl and was going to invite him to one of his “parties”?  And Gallagher?  Was he simply called up at the last-minute because someone glamorous dropped out?

But for all the *cough* razzmataz, the draw brought home the reality that we will be seeming lots of games during the competition in half empty (at best) stadiums.  I may ultimately be wrong, but with hundreds of thousands of tickets still unsold for the event I think the brain wave of taking the Olympics to other parts of the British Isle will end in embarrassment for the LOGOC. Continue reading

Getting a leg(acy) up

Here is a little secret for West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur awaiting the decision on who will get the Olympic Stadium next week.  Whisper it quietly, but football fans rarely want to watch football in an Olympic Stadium.  Why do I say that? Well a simple look at similar structures around the world, built for non-football events reveals quite a bit.  The prospect of an Olympic Games being awarded to a city sends them into construction meltdown, over promising and in most cases under delivering on the legacy of the games.  The whole story of whether a stadium will have an athletics track or not is not a new thing.  We all know that at the end of the day politics will win the day, and we have seen all sorts of stories in the past few weeks about who will do what when/if they win the bid.

Below we have analysed the stadiums used in the last ten games, and what has happened since.  And what does history tell us?  Well, lets start back in 1972 shall we?

The Olympiastadion – Munich (1972 Olympic Games)
The games that transformed a nation, both before but also during with the events of Black September.  The stadium was built literally with rubble cleared from the city after the post war rebuilding effort.  It was a very futuristic structure when it opened in 1971 with its translucent wavy roof and a capacity of 69,00. Both Munich teams moved in to start, regularly playing in front of sell out crowds before TSV got bored and moved away back to their spiritual home nearer the city centre.   The stadium retained its running track which meant some fans behind the goals were nearly 40 metres from the action.  Both Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 were unhappy playing there – 1860 for many years played at their original Grünwalderstrasse ground.  Despite hosting a World Cup, a European Championship and three Champions League Finals both clubs jumped at the opportunity to move to a stadium of the same size when the Allianz Arena was opened prior to the 2006 World Cup.  The stadium today is still used for athletics. Continue reading

Some common sense please

In less than two years time the 30th Summer Olympics will officially open in East London.  Two hundred and five countries will be sending over eighteen thousand athletes to compete in thirty different sports and over three hundred events.  One of the most eagerly anticipated sports is the football, as for the first time in our living lives we will see a combined Great Britain team try to win Gold.

But unlike many other sports (Boxing being a notable other exception), the football has a number of stipulations as to which players can be picked to play.  Each team will consist of its “under 23’s” team, which is interesting as we don’t actually have one, and can be supplemented with three over aged players.  Whilst there will be a Great Britain team, to be managed by Sir Alex Ferguson so we are led to believe, quite who will be playing is unclear.  The tournament comes right in the middle of pre-season preparations, and starts (the football tournament actually commences on the 25th July) just 24 days after the final of Euro2012 in Poland and Ukraine.  Also, whilst it is a “Great Britain” team, in a letter to the IOC in May 2009 the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Football Associations said that they would not be allowing qualified players to play in the team, although they would not stop the team being called a “Great Britain” XI.  So all round happy faces. Continue reading