In a previous column, I noted that it is not an easy process for a sport to get to the starting line of the Olympic Games. Triathlon has been included only twice before: Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) must limit the number of participating sports and the number of athletes, for without limits, hosting the Olympic Games would be logistically and physically impossible.
To give you a glimpse of why participation must be limited, let's take a look at the layout of the Games and a few statistics. Each city that hosts the Games must have or build the facilities to accommodate the athletes, spectators and all of the competition venues. The official Beijing site and a layout of the venues can be found here.
Know that there are two distinct villages. The Olympic Village is open to the public and can be considered the physical focal point for the Games. The Olympic torch is found there through the length of competition. In Athens, the torch was atop the main Olympic stadium where the opening and closing ceremonies were held, along with prestigious track and field events.
The Athlete Village is where most of the athletes and support staff are housed for some period during the Games (although some do stay offsite). The Athlete Village has all kinds of services, including, but not limited to, boarding, dining, recreation and entertainment. It is not open to the public and you must hold an accreditation to be allowed access into the village.
Athletes and support staff from all sports and countries are constantly moving into and out of the Athlete Village because there is not enough space to house each participant all at once for the duration of the Games. An interesting tidbit is that construction on the Athlete Village for the 2008 Beijing Olympics began in June 2005.
Quantifying the Games
We can get a glimpse of the magnitude of the upcoming Olympics by looking at the statistics from past Games.
Sydney was the first Games to include triathlon in the program. Below are some statistics from the 2000 Sydney Games from the Olympic Games Study Commission Report to the 115th IOC Session Prague, July 2003:
- In Sydney there were 200 participating nations and 300 events, up from the 1988 Seoul Games at 159 participating nations and 237 events.
- The number of accredited persons (I will talk about the accreditation process in another column) doubled since Los Angeles in 1984 to Sydney in 2000, from 100,000 to 200,000.
- Olympic spectators purchased 6.7 million tickets in Sydney.
- The Games attracted 20,000 members of the accredited international media to Sydney (press, broadcasters and the Olympic Broadcasting Organization).
- The operating budget for an Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (OCOG) of a summer Olympic Games is about $2 billion, while the host government may also invest more than $1 billion.
- There were 17,000 security personnel used in Sydney.
- The Olympic Village served 50,000 meals per day.
- The Sydney OCOG used 4,700 cars and vans.
- The 2000 Sydney Games were watched by 3.7 billion television viewers worldwide.
- The greatest number (11,099) of athletes in the Games, to date, competed.
- The greatest number of female athletes competed.
- 202 National Olympic Committees participated.
- There were 3,581,080 tickets sold, more than Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992.
- There was increased global television viewer ship by 20 percent, on average.
- There were 45,000 volunteers involved in the hosting of the Games. Volunteer applications exceeded 160,000.
- A total of 11,000 salaried employees were involved.
- For the first time in modern history, a sporting event was held in the Ancient Olympia Stadium. Women competed in that stadium for the first time ever.
- Women's wrestling was included in the Olympic competition schedule for the first time.
- For the first time, stadiums built in three different centuries hosted Olympic sports: Ancient Olympia Stadium (5th century B.C), Panathinaikon Stadium (19th century A.D.) and Athens Olympic Stadium (20th century A.D.).
- The Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay was the first to travel around the globe, including Africa and Latin America. A total of 260 million people have seen the flame in their city.
- In an effort to control the commercial aspect of the Games, Athens 2004 had a limited group of sponsors, half that of previous Games.
- The Athlete Village provided accommodation and free-of-charge services to 16,000 athletes and team officials.
- A notable 12 million meals (400,000 per day) were offered at the Olympic Village.