Mon. May 27th, 2024

‘Wasn’t a great vibe’: Is the Olympics struggling for relevance?

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May24,2024
The 2000 Olympics captivated Australia but since then, public interest in the Games appears to have waned.
The Paris Games will be held in July and Brisbane will host in 2032. But will Australians even be interested by then?
Host of the Sports Ambassador Podcast and professorial fellow at the University of Canberra Tracey Holmes says the 2000 games was a high point for Australia.
“We had great sport, great athletes, all the conditions were perfect. And it was definitely one of those lifetime highs. I haven’t met anyone that hasn’t said the same thing. It was an absolute high point that you’d find very difficult to repeat,” Holmes, a former sports journalist, said.
is estimated to be the most-watched broadcast of all time in Australia.
Cathy Freeman wearing a white bodysuit standing under cascading water while holding the Olympic torch.

Cathy Freeman beneath the Olympic flame at the Sydney 2000 opening ceremony Source: AAP / Dave Hunt

Almost nine million people, close to half of Australia’s then population, tuned in for this moment. 

David Rowe is an emeritus professor of cultural research at Western Sydney University.
He was in Paris recently and says Olympic excitement hadn’t reached the city yet.
“I have to say there wasn’t a great vibe in Paris, this was in late March. The vibe hadn’t picked up, the excitement hadn’t started but I think based on experience, it will become a lot of fun,” he said.
“If you can put up with the surveillance, the crowds and policing, the costs and all that.” 

Back in Australia, Holmes says there’s a range of factors that influence Australians’ interest in the games.

“It depends where the Olympics are being held, it depends on things like whether there’s a global COVID pandemic or not, it depends on the state of the economy, it depends on the time zone where the games are so if they’re in a favourable time zone Australians tend to tune in and really support our athletes.”
Historian with the National Library of Australia Guy Hansen says mass events have become less important as options for entertainment have expanded.
“It most probably doesn’t have quite the same penetration back when we had mass media of radio and television and newspapers, which pretty much dominated what people knew.

“But now with the way people pursue their own interests through social media and on the web, means that you can sometimes avoid some of the big things but if anything has cut through, the Olympics has cut through and particularly if the Australian team is doing well, then I think people will become very engaged.”

Red plush toys with eyes in a bowl

Plush toys of the Paris Games mascot Olympic Phryge. Source: AAP / PA

Holmes says organisers are trying to tap into that fractured audience.

“Traditional media doesn’t get the same audiences as it once did, but now in Paris 2024 there will be more than a half a billion social media posts. And if you just lined all of those up and spent one second looking at each of them, you’d be looking at those until the Olympic Games of 2040.”
Rowe says there’s a concerted effort to get younger people interested in the games, as the Olympic audience is ageing.

“There’s this idea of bringing in new sports — breakdancing is on in Paris. So there is an attempt to attract the younger audience which isn’t as reflexively crazy about the Olympics as a perhaps early generation.”

It’s less than a decade until the Olympics are in Australia again.
Deputy director of the Griffith Institute for Tourism Professor Leonie Lockstone-Binney says that, from the get-go, there’s been less competition and excitement around the Brisbane games.

“In terms of Sydney, you know, it was a very competitive bid at that time, whereas in Brisbane effectively, it was pretty much a one-horse race towards the end, and they were the only effective bidder.” 

An old castle with blue signs out the front

Excitement about the Olympic Games is yet to fully reach Paris yet, a recent visitor says. Source: AAP / Adam Davy / PA

An estimated $6.6 billion was spent on the Sydney Games.

Homebush, in the city’s west, was transformed from an industrial area to a sports and entertainment precinct capable of hosting hundreds of thousands of people.
Professor Lockstone-Binney says the approach to the Brisbane Olympics will be different — what the International Olympic Committee is calling the ‘new norm’.
“It’s part of what they’re calling the new norm, and they recognise holding the games is very expensive. Often a lot of the infrastructure that’s been developed for previous and past games has turned into effectively white elephants and hasn’t been effectively utilised by the community after the games.”
The initial plan for the 2032 Olympics was to revitalise one of Brisbane’s biggest sporting venues, the Brisbane Cricket Ground, known as the Gabba.

But after a change of leaders that plan was abandoned, and Premier Steven Miles announced a review into the infrastructure for the games, which suggested a new stadium be built.

Lockstone-Binney says the government had other plans and proposed there would be substantial redevelopment of two existing venues.


As to why Brisbane might want to host the Olympics, Hansen says it could offer the city global publicity.
“Both Melbourne and Sydney are very well-known Australian cities internationally. And I think the Olympics has played a big part in that. I think Brisbane wants some of that action as well.”
Holmes says the consistency of the Olympics is a testament to the event’s durability.
“This is something that started in 1896. And in 2024, it’s still there. And they’ve now had, I think, 10 cities bidding for the 2036 Olympic Games.

“Even though people criticise it a lot, it must be doing something right.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “‘Wasn’t a great vibe’: Is the Olympics struggling for relevance?”
  1. Regarding the Olympics, I must say Paris didn’t impress me with its vibe. The excitement was lacking, but based on past experiences, it’s likely to become more enjoyable. If you can tolerate the surveillance, crowds, policing, costs, and all that.

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