Athletics Weekly - - Content - Ja­son Hen­der­son, ed­i­tor MITCHELL GARY

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.

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