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Apathetic Greeks

If I had a friend in Greece, the one question I'd want to ask them right now would be, "aren't you embarrassed over the empty seats at the Olympic events?" From a AP article:

So far, the Olympics are a box-office bust.

"I watched it on TV and when you looked in the background, you were like, 'Wow, it's the Olympics and nobody is there,'" former gymnast Bart Conner said...

At gymnastics, huge sections of seats had no one in them while the women competed, a fact Greek state television duly noted.

"This must be the first time there is an Olympic gymnastics event that didn't have a full arena," a commentator said.

Organizers say it's too early to judge the games by a few empty arenas. They claim to have sold more than 2.9 million tickets out of a total of 5.3 million. The goal is to sell 3.4 million tickets, and Athens 2004 spokesman Michael Zacharatos predicted sales will increase as the games become "more exciting."

In Sydney four years ago, organizers said they sold 92 percent of the 5.7 million tickets...

Basketball drew a big crowd for Argentina against Serbia-Montenegro, and so did a marquee match in water polo between defending Olympic champion Hungry and Serbia-Montenegro.

More common, though, were the scenes at the Cuba-Australia baseball game, where only 1,549 fans made their way to the 8,700-seat stadium. At the Paraguay-Ghana soccer match in Thessaloniki, no one was sitting on the far side or in the end zones.

At the Japan-Italy game in Volos about 200 miles north of Athens, barely 5,000 fans were in the stadium, and there were almost as many Japanese fans as locals...

[A]t the new Nikaia Olympic weightlifting hall there were more volunteers and officials than paying spectators for the early sessions.

A friend of mine pointed out today that Greece is, by Western standards, a relatively poor country. Fair enough. But then why spend a reputed $1,000 per citizen to stage the Games in the first place?

Between the famous problems getting the Greeks just to build the necessary infrastructure, and the apathy among the Greek public now that the Games are underway, I would imagine that some of the members of the IOC are thinking to themselves that they don't want to take on any more marginal host cities or nations for a long while to come.

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