Britain and Olympic soccer have never gone together, and that won't change, it seems, with the London Olympics.
The news that poor ticket sales have forced Olympic organizers to
withdraw 500,000 tickets from distribution and slash stadium capacities is disappointing.
Six stadiums will be the venues for men's and women's soccer: Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, City
of Coventry Stadium, Old Trafford in Manchester, St James' Park in Newcastle, Hampden Park in Glasgow and London's Wembley Stadium.
"We are not in bad shape on tickets," insisted
organizing committee chief Sebastian Coe, "but football tickets at a Games are always the challenge. I think we'll do pretty well."
Coe is, of
course, wrong about soccer always being a tough sell. He was probably too busy preparing for the men's 1,500 meters he won a second time to know that soccer was a smash hit at the 1984 Olympics -- an
impetus for FIFA to push for the United States to bid for the 1994 World Cup.
There was only men's soccer in 1984. It wasn't until 1996 that women's soccer was introduced, and it's been
a popular feature of the Olympic Games ever since.
Coe referred to tickets of 37,000-38,000 for the Britain-New Zealand women's match on opening day next Wednesday as evidence of interest
in Olympic soccer.
What Coe didn't mention were advance sales for next Wednesday's other two doubleheaders in Glasgow and Coventry.
The best first-round game in women's
soccer will also take place on opening day when the USA and France meet at legendary Hampden Park in Glasgow. The capacity of Hampden Park has been reduced since 1960 when 130,000 fans watched Real
Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt in their epic European Cup final. And sections of Hampden Park will surely be closed off due to poor demand, further reducing its size from its current capacity of
You'd think USA-France -- a rematch of last year's Women's World Cup semifinal featuring two of the most exciting teams in the world -- would fill a good part of Hampden Park but
we were told that as of early last month only 200 tickets were sold for the Wednesday doubleheader that features Colombia-North Korea in the nightcap.
Women's soccer is growing in
popularity across Europe. A crowd of more than 50,000 in Munich watched French club Lyon win the 2012 UEFA Women's Champions League, and huge crowds turned out for the 2011 Women's World Cup in
But it will be a case of two steps forward and one step back if tickets sales for women's soccer are as poor as we've been led to believe.