Yankees or synchronized swimming?
New York sports fans barely notice Goodwill Games
Posted: Thursday July 30, 1998 06:25 PM
NEW YORK (AP) - Sure, the out-of-town notices weren't so hot.
Moscow, Seattle and St. Petersburg, Russia, were tough places to build a buzz, and impresario Ted Turner lost an estimated US$109 million on the first three editions of the Goodwill Games.
So, for the fourth round, Turner picked the biggest stage for a part of his media-and-sports empire that is among the nearest and dearest to his heart.
Has Goodwill overrun New York? No. Have the games made it here? Sort of.
Organizers say they're pleased with ticket sales, although they estimate only 400,000 of the 600,000 available will be sold by the time the games end Sunday.
"When you measure that, you know that's about a half a dozen Super Bowls and that's not bad," Harvey W. Schiller, president of Turner Sports, said at a news conference.
Television ratings on the TBS Superstation are actually up 42 percent from the games four years ago in St. Petersburg, according to Turner officials.
On the streets of New York, however, the games barely register.
Police say they haven't had to arrest anyone for scalping - this in a town where ticket scalping is legion. (FREE tickets to see Pope John Paul II were reportedly scalped for $75 a few years ago.)
A survey of ticket brokers advertising in the New York Post this week found that the Goodwill Games aren't even on their radar. One phone salesman even thought the games, which were inspired by the Cold War-era Olympics boycotts, were something akin to the Special Olympics. "We don't handle charity events," he snapped.
Among those not filling the empty seats was Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
He welcomed the games during an opening ceremony/concert at Battery Park City, but spokesman Dwight Williams said the mayor's schedule has been busy, preventing him from watching any of the competition.
Giuliani, an unabashed Yankees fan, did join 55,000 fellow New Yorkers at Yankee Stadium last Saturday for the annual Old-timer's Day celebration, where heroes such as Joe DiMaggio were cheered.
And that could be the problem for Goodwill, New York style. For Giuliani and his fellow sports fans, there's too much going on.
Besides the Yankees, chasing the best record ever in baseball, and the Mets, contending for a National League wildcard, sports fans are drawn to the WNBA's Liberty and Major League Soccer's MetroStars. There was a boxing match featuring Roy Jones, perhaps the best fighter in the world, at Madison Square Garden the night of the opening ceremonies. Minor league baseball and soccer are just a short drive away. And in a few weeks, the U.S. Open tennis tournament comes to town.
The city's Economic Development Corporation, which usually tracks the impact of large events like conventions on the local economy, said no study of the Goodwill Games was even planned. A review of the impact on Nassau County on Long Island, where most of the competition is taking place, would be conducted after the games, said David Vieser, a spokesman for Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta.
Like the first three, Goodwill Games '98 is almost guaranteed to lose money. But Turner and Time-Warner, Inc., its parent company, already have announced that edition No. 5 will be held in 2001 in Brisbane, Australia.
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