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Volume 6 No. 212

Events and Attractions

A "cloud has been cast over the 142nd Open Championship" at Muirfield by attendance figures that show "a significant drop since the tournament was last held at the East Lothian course in 2002," according to Alasdair Reid of the London TELEGRAPH. After first-day figures that "showed that only 23,393 people came through the gates, in comparison with the 30,620 who turned up 11 years ago," Friday’s attendance also showed "a sharp fall: 29,144 against 34,479 in 2002." Royal & Ancient countered claims that ticket prices of £75 ($115.50) per day, and £260 ($297) for the entire event, have driven spectators away. R&A spokesperson Mike Woodcock said, "The Open Championship offers exceptional value to spectators who can enjoy up to 15 hours of golf in one day. Children under 16 accompanied by an adult get in free, which makes it ideal for families" (TELEGRAPH, 7/20).

TOURISM SLOW: The SCOTSMAN reported local business owners said on Friday that they "believed potential visitors had been put off by the high ticket prices" for the Open. Gullane's Village Coffee House Manager Gavin Wallace said, "There is no doubt that it is not cheap to go to the Open this year, nor is it cheap to eat and drink when you get there. It is a lot of money and I would imagine it has put a lot of people off." The standard official ticket price is more than double that charged 11 years ago, although it is "on a par with the cost of a ticket for last year’s event at Lytham & St Annes." Tickets for Sunday’s final round were available on the Internet "for less than half the original price as fans reported empty stands at Muirfield." Holiday rental properties "are also lying empty." Bass Rock Letting Agency employee Graham Currie said, "We have rented out around 150 and there are probably another hundred which haven’t made it" (SCOTSMAN, 7/20). GOLF's Jeff Ritter wrote that "attendance at this year's event is in the tank." The telltale signs of a thin crowd "can be spotted with ease." Restroom lines are "nonexistent." You "can grab an ice cream cone or some fish and chips almost immediately" (GOLF, 7/20).

This "is the Tour de France, and each year millions of spectators -- no one knows the exact number -- line the hundreds of miles of roadway to cheer, a teeming sea of ridiculous costumes, waving flags and boozy enthusiasm that is nearly as big a part of the race as the racers themselves," according to James Dao of the N.Y. TIMES. The stadium was packed again Friday as tens of thousands "lined the rain-soaked roads near the Alpine resort town to see Rui Costa, a Portuguese rider with Movistar, win his second stage of the Tour after a long breakaway." As riders exited the course at the end of the race, "they were mobbed by fans asking for autographs or trying to take photographs." That sort of intimacy "is what draws many fans to the Tour and makes them willing to sit for hours in lawn chairs along dusty roads or camp for days on mountainsides for the chance to watch riders speed by in all of 20 seconds." There are "virtually no rules" governing spectator behavior at the Tour. There are barriers at "a few important spots, including the start, finish, midcourse sprints and some urban areas." But almost everywhere else, fans are "free to roam." An "unwritten code of ethics might look like this: keep small children in hand and animals on a leash." Touching riders is "frowned upon but allowed." Causing them to crash "is bad." To a "remarkable degree, the rules are followed." To Tour novices, particularly Americans, the behavior of fans is "mind-boggling." Kate Phillips, 45, said, "This just could not happen in the States. Americans are so cautious. They would have barriers everywhere" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/20).