ARE you a “stadium half empty” or “stadium half full” kind of person? Looking at the London Stadium this week, for example, do you dwell on the gaps in the stands? Or do you instead focus on the healthy 31,000 crowd on Sunday night and the fact the event has drawn the biggest audience in the history of the World Para Athletics Championships?
Half full/empty athletics arenas have been a bit of a talking point this summer. From the sparse seating areas at the British Team Trials in Birmingham to the packed stands at the IAAF World Under-18 Championships in Nairobi last weekend, we have seen the best of both worlds.
The latter, it must be added, was full of spectators partly because tickets were free. Similarly, the
Diamond League in Rabat last Sunday also had a good attendance thanks to free entry at the door.
Whatever the price, athletics has always been able to draw a crowd for the biggest events or names. Remember how London 2012’s ticket sales broke the internet? This summer it was also interesting to see the stands at Rome’s Golden Gala nowhere near as full as they were when Usain Bolt has raced there.
Going back further in time, thousands of people used to flock to watch the pedestrianism clashes and challenges in the 19th century, while the crowds at the White City throughout parts of the 20th century are legendary.
At times, though, athletics – especially running – seems to be more of a participation sport than a spectator sport. This is why most of the people watching events like last weekend’s British League ‘big Saturday’ in Bedford, or the previous weekend’s English Schools in Birmingham, were simply the athletes who were there competing, while the biggest crowds of all, of course, are the huge throngs of runners we see taking part in major road races like the Virgin Money London Marathon and Simplyhealth Great North Run.