Olympics: Poll shows protests, smog cut into popularity in Europe
By Dan Baynes
Bloomberg News Service
By Dan Baynes
The Olympics are less popular with Europeans than four years ago because of negative publicity surrounding Tibet, the Beijing Games torch-relay protests and pollution, according to a survey released today.
Sport + Markt AG's "Sponsoring 21" study found that interest in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the U.K. had "decreased significantly." Britain showed the biggest drop, with 36 percent of those surveyed declaring an interest in the Games, down from 52 percent in 2004, when the Olympics were held in Athens.
While interest usually rises during an Olympic year, protests along the torch-relay route following China's crackdown of protesters in Tibet and public discussion about Beijing's pollution led to a decline in 2008, Sport + Markt said.
"Negative publicity regarding China and Tibet as well as the environmental issue and discussion on Beijing's air pollution did its job," Gareth Moore, Sport + Markt's U.K. director, said in a statement.
Still, more than half of U.K. residents surveyed said they would follow the Games because London will host the next edition in 2012. Sixty-four percent of Britons are already looking forward to the London Games, when negative publicity is unlikely to dominate the media, Moore said.
This current drop in interest levels "shows the importance of the reputation and political situation of the host country," he added.
Even the host nation is experiencing some apathy toward the Aug. 8-24 Games. A poll by the Ogilvy Group released yesterday showed that Beijing residents are less excited about the Olympics compared with eight months ago on concerns over crowds, traffic flow and possible terrorist attacks.
Ogilvy's Project 2008 Poll showed 69 percent of Beijing residents surveyed are "extremely excited" about the Games, down from 79 percent of those polled in January.