Let me preface this post by saying that, if you are a rabid football supporter, there’s no way you will agree with anything I’m saying and I realise that. This post is for sports fans who would like to go to a big event like the Olympic Summer Games or the World Cup but aren’t sure which to choose.
I’m at the World Cup in South Africa right now, and the atmosphere is amazing. On game day in the city centre or at one of the many fan fests set up around the country, the buzz is electric. People are kitted out in all sorts of fun costumes, blowing their vuvuzelas, singing their songs and generally going nuts. It’s a great thing to be a part of but the Summer Olympics are better, and here’s why.
Two weeks of solid action — After the opening ceremony launches the festivities, there are sporting events on solidly for the next two weeks. You can always find something to watch from 8:30am each day to 10pm each night. The World Cup packs in the games, but there’s still a lot of down time between them.
Truly international — The World Cup only has 32 countries represented. The Summer Olympics has over 200. Not only does this give fans from all over the world something to cheer for, it also gives you a chance to meet and mingle with spectators from from all over the world. Sharing a group hug with Khazakstanian wrestling fans or partying with Ethiopians at a bar is probably not something you’ll get to do at a World Cup.
Tickets are affordable and plentiful — At the Olympics in Beijing there were tickets as cheap as US$5. In Athens there were loads of tickets valued at under 10 euro. London might be another story but, in my experience at the Olympics, there are plenty of affordable tickets available. True, they might not be to the marquee events, but they’re there and allow more people to get involved. Plus, with so many events on, some in huge stadiums, the number of tickets available is a lot more than at the World Cup so getting them is easier.
Festivities are confined to one city — With some exceptions, Olympics events are set in a single city which makes the logistics of planning a trip a lot easier and it means that the entire city is buzzing all of the time, not just certain cities on certain game days. Plus you don’t end up having to travel to the Rustenburgs and Polokwanes of the world (no offence to those cities but they hardly compare to Beijing, Sydney, London etc etc.) It also means that when you meet new friends, they won’t have to head off to some other city a few days later.
Get to mingle with the athletes — Many of the footballers playing at the World Cup will be famous already and raking in huge salaries. They’ll be staying in some fancy hotel and the likelihood of bumping into them in the streets is pretty slim. At the Olympics there are superstars but, for the most part, athletes aren’t household names and, once their event is over, they’re just as likely to be at the bar celebrating as you are. Plus their friends and families are there in support and you will probably find yourself in a one-way conversation as their relative beams at you with pride about them.
Better banter in the stands — World Cup stadiums are huge and loud and while the game is on, fans tend to be focused on it for 45 minutes at a time. At the Olympics, the stadiums are usually smaller and more intimate and the breaks in the action mean that there’s a lot of time to chat with the people around you. Many events have multiple countries competing on the same day which makes for a really exciting atmosphere and you will make friends easily by supporting the same athlete as the people sitting near you.
You can still watch football — If you love football then you can still get tickets to see it at the Olympics. Teams aren’t made up of the superstars you know and the tournament doesn’t hold a candle to the World Cup but, if you love watching the sport, you can still get your fix at the Olympics.
Get to experience new sports — I love the Olympics because it brings obscure sports to the forefront and gives those athletes their moment in the sun. There are so many sports on offer that you are bound to become a fan of at least a few new sports you’d never even heard of. I’m now a fan of handball, weightlifting and field hockey having seen them at the Olympics.
Lots of winners — There were 302 gold medals given out at the Beijing Olympics which means the possibility for 302 super happy experiences across a variety of countries, not just one.
Your team is never eliminated — Unless you’re from one of those nations with only a handful of athletes, you will have someone to cheer for from your country from the start of the games until the finish.
So if you’re a casual sports fan looking to head to a major event at some point in your life but aren’t sure which, take my advice and make it the Olympics!