I’ve only ever been to two World Championships, Antwerp 2013 and Glasgow 2015. But for me, the organisation and atmosphere in Antwerp exceeded the one in Glasgow, even though they tried really hard.
Admittedly, the SSE Hydro arena was way more impressive and photography worthy than the “Sports Palace” in Antwerp. But my high spirits quickly dropped when I got inside and bumped into masses of people waiting to buy food, leotards and official merchandise.* You may ask: “Well, what did you expect?”
Picture this: in Antwerp I walked right in (without having to wait in line) and wandered around for a little bit among the other spectators, like this:
-looking at the candy shop-
hmm, maybe i should buy a drink instead?
ooh, adidas gymnastics gear! gonna have a good look at that later on
gonna go and find my seat first
Upon locating my seat, I practically burst with enthusiasm. Turned out I was in the fifth row behind the vault table and I could have leaned over the railing and touched the gymnasts if I had dared to. **
In Glasgow, there were just too many people downstairs to have a good look at all the stands and the public wasn’t allowed to enter the competition hall yet. To make matters even worse, only little children got one of those big hands with the championships logo on it. That’s not fair.
When we could finally go inside, I was surprised by the lack of light in the competition hall. The scene reminded me more of a music entertainment show, instead of the gymnastics world championships. I missed the thousand bright white lights that usually light up the hall and make the whole space so much more vibrant and brimming with the excitement of gymnastics competitions.
The possibility of being close to the action was also non-existent in the second-last row of the arena. *** Of course, the people who booked on time had better seats, but even the front seats were quite far away from the competition floor. And for me, the smaller the distance to the competition floor, the better the fan experience.
“Ok, time to get this competition started!” I thought. But that’s not what the two presenters had in mind. One hour of blablabla, two boring speeches, numerous Glasgow promotional videos and a “funny” act later, the gymnasts finally came out of the podium. The introduction was the part that I did really like. It gave the audience some time to a) get to know the gymnasts or b) scream on the top of their lungs to show their appreciation.
During 30-second-warm ups, the entertainment show went on, unfortunately. One of the presenters showed up somewhere in the audience, and on the big screen we could watch him play a game of How many names of fish can you think of? with some children. Seriously.
In Antwerp, the audience either just watched warm-ups or they watched an informational video about each one of the apparatuses, brought by Belgian gymnasts. So the hardcore gymfans could freak out over gymnasts falling or hitting their important skills and the casual fans could learn something more about the sport.
Now, if you were there in 2013 – or even if you just followed the livestreams – there’s an 85% chance the rotation song is still stuck in your head and whenever you hear it, you are uncontrollably transported back to that beautiful time when first-year Simone clinched her first gold medal and Kyla was the silver princess.
This year, it seemed as if they didn’t know which song to pick, so they just took a different one for every rotation and they let the crowd yell “ro-TATE” three times before the gymnasts could move. If they had only just taken the one with the bagpipes and let the people clap.
No need to overdo it.
* No Hamish to be seen anywhere, to my great disappointment.
** I did high five Simone, Kyla and Mustafina as they left the competition floor before the AA medal ceremony. Also talked to ASac and bought an Adidas gymnastics t-shirt, if you really wanna know.
*** Pro tip: bring binoculars with you when you were too late to book good seats.
Note: This is my personal opinion based on my experiences. If your view is totally different, share it with us in the comments.