Location: Athens, Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro
Every (last) Games is proclaimed to be the best games ever.
Is there also something like the best fan ever? Or is a fan a fan and is there no real difference in where they come from or who they support?
Is a fan coming to the Olympics a different type then the fan who visits his local football team? And what makes a fan a ‘good’ fan?
It’s fascinating as I recall the different Olympics that I visited and try to picture again the fans. What are their differences or are they more similar then we think?
A short recap of the fans of the welcoming cities during the last 4 summer games:
Rightfully the return home of the Olympic movement. So, the Greek fans are in that sense the only real ‘home’ fans of the Games. I experienced the most intense Greek atmosphere in the Athletics stadium, not by coincidence the most ancient of all Olympic disciplines. Unfortunately, the local favourites got banned from the Olympics just before the Games started. It was quite a soap when the two fled in a taxi away from the Olympic village. The Greek were proud of the history of the Games but were not the most fanatic and informed sports fans. The famous hospitality was especially felt in the Old Town where the squares were full of fans mixing with locals until deep in the night.
Score on hospitality: 8 Score on cheering for others: 7
Score on Iloveallsports: 6 Score on ambiance: 8
Away from the small and cosy Athens and into the large metropole of Beijing. Where the stadiums in Athens were very much a worldwide mix, in China the fans were mostly from…China. This gave a big difference in atmosphere. Especially in the beginning of the Games the events were quiet. And very nationalistic. With a Chinese athlete coming in suddenly there was noise; “JaBo”. Sometimes not even spontaneous; since after some criticism that the atmosphere was somewhat cold; the Communist Party did know how to deal with this. Just organize ‘professional’ fans with the mission to ‘pump’ up the crowds. Bizarre but also typical of Beijing. Well organized, sometimes too organized. Just like the fans.
Score on hospitality: 6 Score on cheering for others: 5
Score on Iloveallsports: 6 Score on ambiance: 6
Back in Europe. Well not exactly anymore after Brexit but still. The crowds were, like in Athens, more mixed again compared to Beijing. It was incredible difficult to get tickets, even for the less popular events. The reason: the whole of the UK population wanted to be there, be part of the Games in London. And not only because of their pride or to see it once in a lifetime. It was clearly felt and experienced that the English fans just love sports. And not only cheering Team GB who won a record number of medals. Also, other athletes were welcomed and cheered on. With probably only one exception: Justin Gaitlin.
Score on hospitality: 7 Score on cheering for others: 8
Score on Iloveallsports: 9 Score on ambiance: 8
The Olympics for the first time in South America. A different scent, a different flavour. Well, simply different in all aspects. Also fan related. Brazilian fans love sports. As long as it is Volleyball or Football. Both on pitch and beach. The ambiance during the finals of the Football in Maracana and Maracanãzinho was simply incredible. And combined with the scenery of the Copa Cabana made the Beach volleyball a unique experience. But as soon as you stepped out of these disciplines to see Athletics or Track cycling or any other sport the level of ambiance quickly dropped. Brazil is picky but when they pick something, they cheer for it with all their passion!
Score on hospitality: 9 Score on cheering for others: 6
Score on Iloveallsports: 5 Score on ambiance: 10
So, can we draw some conclusion from this?
Well, it goes to show that every Olympic Games is a unique event in itself. The locals give every Games a taste of its own. The fact that it crosses over to all continents (apart yet from Africa) makes it a truly global event but locally flavoured. And the home fans might have their favourites in mind when cheering, so do the thousands of fans that flew-sailed-drove in to support their own athletes. And thus, bringing a unique cocktail to the table.
And those coming from far are truly big fans of sport in general and often the Games in specific. The fact that all those fans stay often a week or so brings them together not only during the events but also at nights in the local restaurants and pubs. This is global & local fan mixing at its best and gives the Olympic Fan a 24/7 experience.
And finally, my overall conclusion is that if you want to believe in world peace then visiting the Olympics in the last weekend is a good way to start!