One of Beijing’s dirty little secrets (after the gag-inducing smog), is that the Olympics folks have had trouble attracting viewers to particular events. Some athletes have performed to near-empty stadiums, and there doesn’t appear to be an easy solution.
One problem is that corporate sponsors aren’t using their tickets, but bad weather and visa problems are also to blame. Cardboard cut-outs are an option, as are recruiting volunteers to spend an afternoon watching a sport they otherwise wouldn’t.
And then there’s this: Sexing up the proceedings so that people are fighting for seats. Shockingly, women’s table tennis doesn’t have much of a following, which is why the players are being nudged to dress like strippers*:
Half-empty stands for women’s games at the Olympics in China, the country most obsessed with table tennis, reinforce concerns that the sport needs a make-over to shed its fusty image.
Women players mostly wear baggy shorts and shirts unlike their tennis counterparts who dress for comfort as well as style.
“We are trying to push the players to use skirts and also nicer shirts, not the shirts that are made for men, but ones with more curves,” International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) vice president Claude Bergeret said.
One player, Japan’s Naomi Yotsumoto, has taken matters into her own hands. At the Japanese national championships last year, she played in a daring ensemble of her own design: knee socks, a pleated mini-skirt and a shirt that left one shoulder bare.
If this doesn’t popularize table tennis, I fear all is lost.
(More video awesomeness of Ms. Yotsumoto in action can be found here.)
* slight exaggeration