Emanuel Wallace / Scene
Crowds swarm LeBron James at the parade.
Nick VanDemark, a communications rep for the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, said that the Commission did not
generate the 1.3 million figure used widely yesterday as an estimate of total downtown crowds during the Cavaliers championship parade.
"I don't know where that number started," VanDemark told Scene
by phone Thursday morning. "We actually have no involvement in that. The only tracked numbers might be RTA ridership."
VanDemark said he's certainly aware of formulas that are used to estimate large crowds, but it's not something the Sports Commission does.
In the 1960s, a Cal Berkeley Journalism professor named Herbert Jacobs estimated Vietnam protest crowds by measuring total area and dividing by certain square-foot measurements according to crowd density. (This is still the basic method for armchair crowd estimates).
"A truly scary mob of mosh-pit density would get about 2.5 square feet per person," NBC explained back in 2009
More advanced methods are out there
. They tend to involve close analysis of aerial photography and manual head-counting of representative areas.
The 1.3 million figure was reported and tweeted out all day. Fred McLeod even referenced it during his remarks at the rally.
"Unfortunately, I spent a couple hours of the parade trying to nip this in the bud, responding to emails and tweets as best I could," VanDemark said. (But to little avail.)
RTA Spokeswoman Linda Krecic wasn't immediately available for comment by phone or email about the transit authority's total ridership yesterday, but she told local news that it was the biggest day the RTA has ever had. Reports of four-hour wait times at Rapid stops were not uncommon.
Cleveland.com's Cory Shaffer reported that
Cuyahoga County Chief Community Safety and Protection Officer Frank Bova estimated the crowd at more than 1 million, but called it an "unofficial estimate."
Crowd sizes are often over- or underreported based on various motives. And though the origin of the 1.3 million figure remains unclear — it certainly wasn't the Sports Commission who started it — one thing is obvious: Cleveland hasn't seen crowds of this size in generations.