Our interactive intern goes in search of the Games
Posted: Friday July 31, 1998 03:39 PM
By Brian Hamilton
NEW YORK (CNN/SI) -- At the Goodwill Games Global Pavilion in Battery Park City, certain rules apply.
There must be plenty of water to fuel the frenzied summer-camp children shooting hoops. Skateboarders show up, you know, whenever, dude. And the people portraying Warner Bros. cartoon characters limit themselves to short, regulated stints in the blast furnaces known as their costumes.
"The biggest problem is the heat," says Barbara Peterson, the Pavilion's Art & Earth director. "The characters can only go for about 15 minutes." After all, there would be no joy at Global if mighty Tweety Bird passed out.
Kids dominate the daytime scene at the '98 Goodwill Games. At venues in Manhattan, the Games are a curious cross-section of very serious athletes in very serious events performing for an audience that might not be able to tell Michael Johnson from Michael Jackson.
From Madison Square Garden to the Pavilion to Central Park, the Games have encountered a daily reality: Even in New York, most people work. So you can forget about attending those afternoon boxing prelims. And the beach volleyball matches, held in the open and ironic atmosphere of Wollman Rink in Central Park, won't attract crowds until this weekend, when the competition is for the right to sling a hunk of metal around one's neck.
Until then, the rugrats rule. Especially in Central Park, where the site is fenced off to such an extent that from the outside all you can see is a giant inflatable Snapple bottle. The incongruity of a beach in Central Park ought to bring inquiring crowds. (It's not really a beach; it's one million pounds of Canadian sand dumped on top of concrete.) But the commotion barely piqued the interest of passersby. At Wednesday's first match between Germany's Maike Friedrichsen and Danja Musch, and the Czech Republic's Eva Celbova and Sona Dosoudilova, the loudest ovation came from that lovable group from P.S. 5. The kids' screeches could be heard hundreds of yards away.
Demand was low. At volleyball, two men gave extra tickets to a pair of bystanders for free. The Garden, usually a mecca for scalpers, was bereft of ticket hounds. It doesn't help that just one banner above the main entrance -- no bigger than the WNBA one next to it -- anounced the presence of an event of any kind. On the huge electronic marquee on Seventh Avenue, the Games share time with the upcoming New York CityHawks-Albany Firebirds arena football match. Before Tuesday afternoon's boxing preliminaries, more people waited in line for cabs leaving the Garden than got out of cabs to come in. An Academy Bus pulled up at 11:45 Tuesday -- 15 minutes before everyone's ready to rumble -- and exactly six fans disembarked.
Enter the Barney brigade. "What I have seen," says a security guy, "is a lot of kids, like 10- to 15-year-olds."
The Pavilion welcomes all this. Located just off the West Side Highway, about 200 yards north of the World Trade Center, it's a sparsely populated, 200,000- square-foot island of unmitigated Goodwill.
"We were hoping to get more Wall Street people to drop by," Peterson says. After several days of skimpy attendance, admission was dropped from $5 ($10 at night) to free. Last Sunday, a World Championship Wrestling exhibition drew nearly 5,000 people -- the largest crowd thus far.
For the few who come, there's plenty to do. As it is, a jazz quartet performs on stage before empty chairs, and the adjacent big screen displays live boxing. You can munch at the Garden of Eatin', while the P.A. announcer assures everyone that more skateboarders will show up soon. "They had a late night last night," he quips.
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