Pekin 2008

From Times Online

 

 August 1, 2008                           

Public lose their appetite for Beijing Games

Ashling O’Connor, Olympics Correspondent

Negative publicity surrounding the Beijing Games has caused a “drastic” fall in interest in the Olympics in Britain, according to market research released today. The public’s appetite for the world’s biggest sports event has declined since the Athens Games in 2004, led by concerns about China’s human rights record and air pollution.

The survey by Sport+Markt, published exclusively in The Times, showed that the proportion of people who were either “interested” or “very interested” in the Olympics had fallen from 52 per cent to 36 per cent over the past four years. Britain displayed the lowest level of enthusiasm out of the five major European countries - Germany, Italy, France, and Spain - where interest had fallen. Germany registered the highest level.

Unsurprisingly, as Beijing is the host city, the highest interest in the Games was recorded in China, followed by Russia, Japan and the US - the other big Olympics markets.

“In the UK, the drop in interest in the summer Games over the past four years is drastic. The fact that England did not participate in the European Championships this year should have had the opposite effect,” Gareth Moore, an international sales director, said. “But negative publicity regarding China and Tibet as well as the environmental issue and discussion on Beijing’s air pollution did its job.”

1,000 people per country between the ages of 16 and 69, will worry the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Jacques Rogge, the president, has maintained that the anti-Chinese protests that plagued the Beijing torch relay around the world earlier this year had not damaged the Olympic brand.

His optimism contrasts with private views expressed by some IOC members that they regretted their decision in 2001 to award the Games to Beijing because China’s political leaders had failed to carry out some of the promises made at the time. Besides a vocal - and non-binding - pledge to improve the human rights situation, Beijing made contractual agreements to increase media freedom during 2008 and clean up its heavily polluted air in time for the Games which start a week today.

However, human rights campaigners are still reporting crackdowns on civil liberties and religious freedoms, and a restraint on the press as the opening ceremony approaches. Journalists in the Olympic Village have reported blocks on certain websites critical of China. Photographs this week of Tiananmen Square encased in a thick haze of industrial smog offer proof of China’s failure to meet the IOC’s expectations.

“The events in Tibet this spring as well as protests regarding the torch relay acted as a negative worldwide campaign for the Olympics in Beijing,” Hartmut Zastrow, the Sport+Markt executive director, said. “This significantly decreased the anticipation in the build-up to the Olympics.” The findings may also worry London’s Olympic organisers. An unsuccessful Games in Beijing could create a hangover effect, although the poll did find that 64 per cent of respondents in Britain were looking forward to the 2012 Games.

There is some good news for the IOC. The survey revealed a jump in awareness among the British public of the Olympic sponsors compared with four years ago. Coca-Cola was the most recognised brand followed by McDonald’s and Visa.

- Separate research published yesterday by the Department for Children, Schools and Families found that more than eight out of 10 young people know very little about the 2012 Olympics. Some children surveyed were not even aware that the Olympics were to take place in London. One Year 2 child thought it would be in the US, while a Year 1 child suggested Australia. Eighty-three per cent know “not very much” or “nothing at all” about the Games. The report suggests that awareness of the Olympics will increase after the Beijing Games. In September, the London Organising Committee of the Games (Locog) will launch their education programme designed to encourage children to learn about the values of the Olympics.

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