Barely a couple of days old, the 2012 Summer Olympics has already seen its fair share of controversy, from the overwhelming corporatisation of what is meant to be a celebration of amateurism to the stark images of vast banks of empty seats at most of the event venues. But we at Mediolana remain riled by a planning glitch which has barely been discerned by the UK’s domestic media.
It came on Saturday night, when the women’s volleyball (indoor) tournament served up a Group B tie between Brazil and Turkey. Anyone with even the faintest knowledge of women’s volleyball will be aware what a sumptuous prospect this game was: Brazil, the reigning Olympic champions, against the Filenin Sultanları or ‘Sultans of the Net’, an emerging team and Olympic debutante composed of players from one of the strongest leagues in Europe. And the tie lived up to all expectations, with the Brazilian ladies prevailing in a five-set thriller that lasted until the early hours of Sunday morning. Indeed, it was a match which was reminiscent of the exceptionally tight and uniformly thrilling encounters between the same two nations in the men’s 2002 FIFA World Cup and 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup; indubitably one of the sights of the Olympics so far.
Except that almost no one was there to see it. Not because of the highly-publicised problem of the mass no-show at most Olympic events – the arena at Earls Court was well-attended at the start of the game, as it had been for the previous contest in this Group B double-header, the United States versus South Korea – but because most of the spectators had no choice but to vacate the venue before the end of the game as its conclusion ran parallel to the departure of the last London Underground trains of the evening. By the time the iconic Fenerbahçe Universal middle blocker Eda Erdem Dündar committed the unforced error which gifted Brazil victory in the fifth and final set, only a privileged few – presumably those who could afford taxis or private transport to their accommodation, or were living or staying locally – remained.
With seven years in which to plan these games, we were left wondering: how it is possible to schedule an Olympic contest at a time when most of the audience may be forced to follow the latter part of it on their smartphones between Tube stops? Or, like the empty seats and creeping McDonaldisation, was this level of disorganisation always going to be inevitable?