I've been reading about Glasgow's co-hosting of the multi-sport European Championships which involves 4,500 athletes competing from 52 nations. Organisers are expecting up to 250,000 spectators during the event but have warned of serious transport disruption around the city centre.
It reminds me of our work promoting the Commonwealth Games on behalf of the City of Melbourne (and their 6* Convention Centre) and the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand a few years’ back. For both, we delivered campaigns to boost international trade and tourism, (including sending national UK journalists on all-expenses-paid press trips!)
Hosting a major sporting event can bring many cultural and economic benefits but they are not without their challenges. On the plus side, a legacy can be there for the taking if smart follow-through occurs to capitalise on a higher location profile (for tourism and business investment) and if improvements in infrastructure and transport are made.
Apparently, these inaugural European Games in Glasgow and Berlin could reach an audience of more than one billion sports fans worldwide, significantly boosting the profiles of both cities if all goes well. This is advertising on a scale no city council could afford to buy and will hopefully bring them international and domestic tourism for years to come.
But whilst there are many reasons to bear the high cost of hosting such an event, I am sceptical about how the economic benefits are measured. It seems to me that the best (and often unmeasurable) benefits are social rather than economic.
These major events seem to bring a real sense of place for all those involved and not just the competitors. Bringing together politicians, local neighbourhoods, businesses and organisers, a community spirit can take hold like no other. And it can develop before the opening ceremony even takes place.
Apparently, more than 10,000 people applied for the 4,000 volunteer positions at these inaugural championships in Glasgow. I hope they all have as great an experience as those who gave their time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London - making memories and friendships for the rest of their lives.