Empty Stadiums at London 2012

Last night Millennium Stadium played host to 70,171 spectators, two Olympic football teams and nearly 200 members of the media. As an Olympic Volunteer in Press Operations my job, along with the rest of my team is to look after the press who have come all over the world to Cardiff for the 11 matches that we’ve hosted during the games. Yesterday we looked after a busy newsroom filled with press from Great Britain, South Korea and all over the world. Today, now the match is over and Team GB are out of the tournament the newsroom is quiet. In fact, the whole stadium is quiet.

A full stadium during Team GB v South Korea (Photo: Suzy Aldridge)

 There’s something terribly eerie about an empty stadium. This colossal building is designed for over 70,000 spectators and today it stands empty, with barely 50 occupants working in its corridors and offices, and out on the pitch, giving live back to the grass ready for the final match in five days. I’ve had no press through my doors today and the newsroom is strange without journalists and photographers hard at work. There’s no jetlagged Japanese cameraman asleep in the corner, no Brazilian Photographer trying not to seem as awed as he was on the first day here and no local journalist confounded by the turnout of many international writers. I’ve become so used to familiar faces and the ever-present new arrivals that the empty room seems sad and wrong.

Out in the stands last night the atmosphere was utterly astounding with singing, chanting, cheering and drumbeats vibrating through the crowd. The packed stadium just seemed even more vibrant with the roof closed as the tension mounted whilst Team GB battled against South Korea. But this morning I went out into the stands and the silence was uncanny, I could even hear the cars in central Cardiff. When the stadium’s full the atmosphere is beyond belief but without the spectators and the teams it’s too quiet, too empty.

Millennium Stadium, empty the day after Team GB v South Korea (Photo: Suzy Aldridge)

For now the stadium feels like its waiting. In five days we will host the bronze medal match and a few weeks later it will be transformed from a football venue, ready to host the Speedway Grand Prix. The Millennium Stadium is an established venue that’s been open since 1999 hosting rugby, football, speedway and music concerts year after year, coming alive again for each event.

But what will be the fate of the Olympic Park? On 9th September the Paralympics will end and the park will slowly be stripped of the distinctive London 2012 branding. LOCOG have promised to make this year’s summer games the most sustainable yet with “legacy” beginning a key part of the original Olympic bid back in 2005. Ingenuously some of the venues, such as the Riverbank Arena (hockey), the Water Polo Arena, the Basketball Arena will be taken down after the event and even the Olympic Stadium will be reduced from an 80,000 to 60,000 capacity venue. However other venues such as the Aquatics Centre and the BMX Track are to be for the “community”. The word pops up very often but with all of these venues tucked away in East London one wonders whether sports groups throughout the country will bother to use them. Will these venues live on after the games or will the new found passion that Great Britain has found in sport this summer disappear with the pink London 2012 branding?

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