Orlando: Olympic Soccer Boosts Image, Not Economy
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ Traffic flowed, buses ran on time and the games were entertaining.
Olympic soccer wasn’t the economic boon for Orlando the World Cup was two years ago, but officials say it wasn’t a bust. And, unlike Atlanta, it was relatively glitch-free.
``There were some nights where I had to click my (two-way) radio on and off just to make sure it was working,″ said Chuck Ogilvie, chairman of the Orlando Soccer Organizing Committee.
The nine games over six days at the Florida Citrus Bowl attracted 123,248 fans and came off without the logistical problems that dogged Atlanta early in the games.
``There wasn’t any question that we knew we could handle it and that things would go smoothly,″ Ogilvie said. ``But you still get a little tense.″
It may be late August before officials know exactly how Orlando, one of four venues for first-round soccer, fared financially.
The Florida Citrus Sports Association’s bid to host the event guaranteed Atlanta organizers $1.8 million from Orlando, which sold out every World Cup game it hosted in 1994.
As much as $4 million may have been spent to stage the matches and run a mini-Olympic Village for athletes at the University of Central Florida.
Ogilvie expects revenue from ticket sales, concessions, novelties and parking to give the Orlando organizing group a chance to break even.
If there are losses, the city of Orlando and Orange County will split the bill.
``If I could stand here and tell you we averaged 30,000, I could tell you we made a mint. That didn’t happen. It’s going to be close,″ Ogilvie said. ``If we make money, it won’t be a lot. If we lose money, it won’t be a lot. I wouldn’t bet on either side.″
Attendance averaged 20,541 per session and ranged from a low of 16,633 to a high of 28,174 for opening ceremonies and a men’s match between Spain and Saudi Arabia.
The most consistent draw was the U.S. women’s team, which attracted two of the three largest crowds _ 25,303 and 22,734 _ ever to watch the national team on American soil.
The crowd of 25,303 Sunday nearly tripled the previous record of just under 9,000 for a women’s game. Orlando grudgingly yielded the record Thursday when the U.S. women drew 43,525 to the Orange Bowl in Miami.
``We set the record with fans that came to see the women. It was a little bit different situation in Miami,″ Ogilvie said.
The U.S.-China women’s game in Miami was part of a doubleheader that also featured an attractive men’s matchup between gold medal favorite Brazil and Nigeria.