Public Want Athletics Not Gimmicks

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When you arrive at a stadium at just after nine in the morning and don’t leave until twelve hours later, it’s going to be hard to sum up an entire day into just a short blog.

Therefore, I think it makes sense to concentrate on possibly the most bizarre part of the weekend so far, the 2012 hours to go ceremony which included the official opening of the stadium. Personally, I had assumed the stadium had opened before the athletes had arrived on Friday afternoon but LOCOG obviously thought differently.

The ceremony was hosted by Vernon Kay and Gabby Logan and included various celebrities, although I use that term very loosely, competing in various activities where the winner would win a prize for a certain section of the crowd. Activites included a tug of war, tandem cycling, art and a 100m zorbing race (won by Lemar).

It felt much more like It’s a Knockout than elite level sport.

To be fair, the ideas may have worked had early May been blessed with warm sunshine, but in the cold and damp stadium, I got the impression very few spectators were really engaged. This was emphasised by the speed with which they vacated the stadium well before the end, far too many to be just those looking to avoid the traffic.

It may seem like a strange concept, but it seems that most of the spectators were actually there to watch the best young university and UKA talent compete. Why spectators weren’t allowed into the stadium until nearly 7pm when the majority of BUCS races had finished, is beyond me.

The atmosphere as the stadium filled to around 40,000 was amazing; I can only imagine how it must have felt trackside. I just wish more people had got the chance to witness the athletics, and that more athletes had experienced the atmosphere.

Far from being a negative, I believe it’s a huge positive that so many people wanted to see the BUCS athletics; it should do great things for the profile of university sport. Tickets sold out very quickly and I wonder how close they could have got to filling the stadium had they released all the tickets.

From my point of view the message to LOCOG is clear: allow sport and athletics to flourish. It’s like T20 cricket, people thought it needed the jacuzzis and bouncy castles and gimmicks to sell tickets, but instead people came to view the sport.

Clearly it is the same at the Olympic Park, fans are coming to watch the sport, the British people don’t need cheap (or even potentially very expensive) gimmicks and famous faces to come down and enjoy a sporting contest.

It's the pride, passion and desire that sometimes only sport manages to deliver that people are willing to pay hundreds of pounds to see.

Looking at the schedule for Sunday, there will be some real, tightly fought contests, so make sure you’re reading Label’s live updates from 10am.

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