No One is Coming to See the World Championships in Athletics

Empty Luzhniki Stadium

Excellent results and the usual stars aren’t enough to bring in the fans to the 2013 World Championships in Athletics held at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, with some embarrassing scenes of empty seats in the tens of thousands constantly on the screen during the opening ceremony and even in the biggest even the competition has to offer, the 100 meters final with Usain Bolt on the track.

An estimated 35,000 were in attendance to see the Jamaican claim his sixth World Championships gold medal, running a 9.77, his seasonal best, in the 100 meters race. The stadium can sit over 78,000, just to show you the “success” of the competition so far.

One of the problems for the Moscow competition isn’t just the size of the stadium or the terrible promotion before the championship according to many athletes, but it’s being held in comparison to the Olympics in London, which couldn’t have been a huger success.

Felix Sanchez, the Olympic champion in 400 meters hurdles made it clear that the difference with last year is like comparing night and day.

It’s dead, there’s no atmosphere. It’s like night and day compared to London last year.

The problem was already noticed before the championships began, with ticket sales going rather slow, and the IAAF blaming the organizers for doing a very poor job in promoting the event. Nearly 250,000 tickets were given away shortly before the start of the events, and even ticket prices were slashed to the equivalent of £2, but it seems nothing is bringing the masses to watch athletics to Russia.

There’s an issue of travelling fans, with Moscow being one of the most expensive cities in the world. The Athletic Championships don’t have the magnetizing appeal of a Football World Cup or the Olympics, but finals and major competitions with stars like Bolt are rarely seen by so few in such a huge stadium.

Obviously, there are those trying to put a positive spin on the matter, like the Vice President of the IAAF, Sergei Bubka. He is claiming that more than 80% of the tickets have been sold, but that’s hard to agree with when watching the empty seats every day and every night. Some attendance numbers have been less than 1000 during the morning sessions, making it easy to hear conversations between athletes down on the track.

Maybe some people bought tickets and didn’t attend. I hope we will settle this issue, because for athletes the crowd is the most important.