|HOME | SPORTS | OLYMPICS | NEWS|
September 8, 2000
Soccer draws a million fansWinsor Dobbin
More than a million spectators are expected to watch the men's and women's soccer events at the Sydney Olympics Games, tournament director Peter Hugg said on Friday.
Hugg believes new converts seeing top-class soccer for the first time could help lift the sport's profile in a country where it remains only the third most popular football code.
Hugg told a press conference that Canberra's pitch problems have been resolved and that it was "all systems go" for the 16-team men's tournament and eight-team women's tournament.
The Olympics soccer tournaments start next Wednesday -- two days ahead of the official opening ceremony -- and Hugg said he expected a 90,000 sell-out crowd to watch the first men's match between hosts Australia's Olyroos and Italy in Melbourne.
"Overall we are aiming for a million spectators at the soccer matches -- and if we achieve that we will be very happy," Hugg said.
The figure could go as high as 1.2 million and match the figures achieved four years ago in the United States -- depending on late ticket sales.
Olympic soccer matches will be played in the cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra in addition to Sydney.
Sell-outs are predicted for several sessions in Sydney and Brisbane, where crowd-pleasers Brazil will play their opening round matches.
"Three or four sessions in Sydney will be sold out, two in Brisbane have already sold out as well as a quarter-final and a number of sessions in Adelaide have sold out," Hugg said.
The problems for the organisers may be filling the giant 90,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground, where there will be seven sessions.
"That will be a challenge," Hugg said. "You can have 40 or 50,000 people in the stadium and it will still be half empty."
Hugg said the two tournaments present a huge opportunity for the sport of soccer in Australia, where it remains well behind Australian Rules football and rugby league in popularity.
"Because soccer tournament matches are being played outside of Sydney, we will attract a lot of people who are not soccer fans, but want to be involved in the Games," Hugg said. "It is a huge opening for soccer because hopefully they'll like what they see and come back for more."
Hugg said the pitch at Canberra's Bruce Stadium, which had to be returfed, will be ready in time for the opening women's match between Australia and Germany on September 13 and the men's match between the United States and the Czech Republic.
"The pitch is down and ready," Hugg said. "All reports to date indicate it will be ready." A final precautionary inspection is scheduled for Friday.
Eleven of the 48 matches in the two tournaments will be played at Bruce Stadium.
Nigeria are the defending men's champions while the United States will be defending their women's title.
Mail your comments
TRAVEL | NEWSLINKS
ROMANCE | WEDDING | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEATHER | FREE MESSENGER | BROADBAND | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK