One hundred people at a field hockey game held at a 19,000-seat stadium. Twenty spectators for a tennis match. Only 50 people in the stands for a sport called netball. Needless to say, the Commonwealth Games are having a bit of an attendance problem.
The Olympic-like event featuring 7,000 athletes from 71 countries has landed with a resounding thud in India. Problems plagued the lead-up to the Games and now that they've arrived, organizers are facing the biggest problem of all: how to get some of the country's 1.1 billion people to actually attend the events.
Organizers have blamed the low attendance on hot weather, a separate cricket event going on in the country, and a disinterest in Western sports like cycling and swimming. Yet the weather is only a few degrees above average, the cricket event doesn't go on all day and attendance has been bad at sports popular in India (like field hockey) and those that have featured famous Indian athletes (a doubles tennis match featuring Indian Laender Paes).
The bigger issue is the price of tickets. The AP reports that 800 million Indians live on less than $2 per day. That makes the cheapest 50 rupee tickets ($1 dollar) a luxury most can't afford. Organizers have been quick to dismiss this claim ("things are all right," one says), but the pictures tell a different story.
Indian officials had hoped the Commonwealth Games would be a springboard to a possible Olympic bid for the city. With the nonexistant attendance and various other problems that have plagued the event so far, an Olympics is out of the question.