Olympic Sponsors Vexed at Footfall Shortfall

15 August 2008

BEIJING: The largest free-standing McDonald's in the world (by size and seating capacity) stands on Beijing's Olympic Green – a massive space surrounded by major sports venues such as the National Stadium (aka the Bird's Nest).

The Green is big, very big, three times the size of New York's Central Park. But even during daylight hours, the Beijing showplace is as sparsely populated as Manhattan's greensward after nightfall.

Which has led a number of the Games' global sponsors such as Lenovo, Samsung, Adidas and Coca-Cola to fret at the paucity of footfall within their gilded promotional pavilions – despite a plethora of rococo corporate 'experiences featuring neon lights, giant-screen TVs and music acts.

Or, in Coke's case, a mist of dry ice accompanied by the sound of gurgling carbonated drinks.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "several high-profile sponsors were expecting 200,000 visitors a day and instead have seen just 20% of that, making it very difficult to justify costs that surpass $150 million, according to people close to the situation." 

Nor was The Common Man, in the shape of Canadian citizen Eugene Reimer favorably impressed. "It's too bad there aren't more people, it's a nice atmosphere," said he as he sipped beer and swayed to the beat of a Chinese rock band in the Samsung pavilion. "I thought this would be more of a party."

Chanting the sacred mantra 'Sek-Ku-Riti' Olympics officials have driven away spectators with day passes who hoped to stroll on the Green. In general, only those brandishing hard-to-get tickets to the venues along the Green have been allowed through the barriers.

Says IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies "Here in Beijing, there have been a few who have requested that more people be admitted into what are known as the 'Olympic common areas' and the organizing committee has been working to find appropriate means of doing this, which we welcome."

The word 'snafu' did not pass her lips.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff