The London 2012 Olympics get underway this afternoon some two days before the Opening Ceremony and 160 miles up the road from Stratford’s Olympic Stadium.
More than 40,000 people are expected at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to watch the women’s football match between Team GB and New Zealand – the first sporting encounter of the Games of the XXX Olympiad.
It might not be the most widely anticipated event of the Games, but today’s fixture represents an opportunity for women’s football to grab the attention of a new sporting audience, both here in the UK and of millions watching around the world.
Team GB manager Hope Powell’s side will make history in Cardiff today by becoming the first British women’s football team to participate in the Olympics.
Football has received some negative press for withdrawing swathes of unsold tickets – the only sport to do so – but it has also sold more tickets than any other sport at the Games and is the only sport attempting to fill multiples venues the size of Old Trafford, Hampden Park and Wembley Stadium.
More than 40,000 people are expected at today’s opener in Cardiff – with tickets available to members on the day – while Tuesday’s game with Brazil at Wembley is expected to shatter the record attendance for a women’s football game in the UK, beating the 53,000 who watched Dick Kerr’s Ladies beat St Helen’s Ladies 4-0 on Boxing Day 1920.
With the BBC as the Olympic broadcaster, all of Team GB’s games will be covered live on terrestrial TV, with today’s game being covered live on BBC One (kick-off 4pm).
This unprecedented level of coverage gives the women’s game access to a greater audience than ever seen before, something not lost on the players who would love to leave a lasting impression for their game.
“The Olympics is a massive platform for women’s football,” Team GB captain Casey Stoney told Club Website recently.
“We’ve never had a Great British women’s team in an Olympics. It’s a world stage. It’s the most watched event around the world, so hopefully British women’s football can use it as a springboard for our game.
“The Olympics will be great because there will be little girls watching their telly thinking ‘I want that to be me in 10 to 15 years time.
“That’s important. We all need someone to look up to or aspire to.”
Powell spoke of her excitement at the team she manages getting the chance to kick off the Olympics.
“I can’t express it really. I’m just really pleased that it’s happened that way,” she said. “We have a responsibility and a great opportunity to [raise the profile of women’s football].
“It is on a world stage, the Olympics is global, it’s massive in its own right, so to be given the opportunity to play as Team GB and the coverage that we’re undoubtedly going to get – the fact that no other sport is on that day – we are hoping that the media attention around it is unprecedented.
“It’s a real honour and a really good opportunity for us to hopefully leave a lasting legacy.”
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