Connected Cities, Sports

Aside from the so-called ‘mega’ or flagship events such as the Olympic and Paralympic Games, there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of sport events which occur across the globe every year. This is a factor of the organised nature of sport.

As well as sport, the event sector also includes cultural, political and trade events, large and small, and all have the potential to generate a wide range of well-documented economic benefits for the host city or community. Events also create media attention, increase the quality of life in our communities and can dramatically increase the global profile of emerging destinations.

In less than 100 days, Baku will host the inaugural European Games, which will be broadcast in 53 countries around the world, including the United States, China and across the Arab world. Speaking at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, the Azerbaijani Government Minister of Youth and Sports said: “Hosting the Games in June this year is not just a single special event for us, but a part of our nation’s broader strategy”.

More and more cities are also recognising that events are a major reason people travel. There are few reliable estimates of the global value of event-based sport tourism, but it is widely recognised as one of the fastest growing tourism sectors. The sport tourism industry in Canada alone surpassed $5 billion in spending in 2012 according to the Travel Survey of Residents of Canada (TSRC) and the International Travel Survey (ITS).

If cities and other communities wish to be players in the national or global marketplace for major events, they must organise the appropriate resources and infrastructures to be effective. However, the issues around event tourism are complex. The effective delivery of major events and event tourism requires the involvement of a multiplicity of agencies, all of which have different objectives for hosting any particular event. Most of the tourism organizations involved are in the private sector, and many events are organized by volunteers who do not think of themselves as part of a strategic process.

EventScotland is the national events agency for Scotland and was established in 2003 to coordinate stakeholders and to generate, bid for, attract and sustain events which drive tourism and create international profile for Scotland. It was one of the first such organisations to develop a national events strategy, ‘Scotland, The Perfect Stage’. In the last ten years more than 1,000 events have been supported by EventScotland, including the Ryder Cup 2014 and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, generating significant economic and social impact.

Preparing and implementing a major event strategy recognises all these realities, providing mechanisms for resourcing event organizations, encouraging and recognizing volunteers, informing the private sector and encouraging its understanding of the overall system and the benefits it is deriving. To be effective, a major event strategy must also be developed with a clear understanding of the need for both a partnership approach and for governmental leadership.

This leadership role also allows cities to develop the strategy with their own goals firmly in mind and to identify how the system can be managed to deliver specific goals such as revitalizing the downtown core, linking with the education and knowledge sector, building civic image and fostering community pride.

A key outcome of a strategy is a process or set of guidelines to help inform which events to prioritise, as all too often, decisions about which events to bid for are not made strategically but in response to short-term pressures, which are frequently political. If analysis is undertaken, in many cases it only measures whether the event will be good for the city economically. Such forecasts attract media attention but have often been shown to be exaggerated and are rarely subjected to post‐event scrutiny.

When considering bidding for or creating an event, the decision-makers should ask: “Is this event better than all the other ones out there that we could be bidding for and why?” This kind of analysis requires a strategic approach and a process for evaluating potential events, and the collaboration of all the various agencies who will be involved in the bidding and hosting process. The process should assess potential major events against the goals or values of the City and its partners.

These goals can be restated as three key questions:

  • Alignment: is this the kind of event the city should support?
  • Capacity: does the organizing committee or entity have the ability to deliver a first-class   event?
  • Benefits: will the event deliver the benefits – social, community, economic and infrastructure enhancement – that the city expects?

Criteria can then be established for each of these goals and potential events assessed against them, allowing events to be compared, and proposals strengthened prior to bid submission, as well as providing a basis for event performance assessment after the event has taken place. The use of such a methodology ensures that the City will be bidding on the best set of events to meet its overall goals and objectives – the right events for the right reasons.


APAndy Preece ( is director (sport) with AECOM Economics. Based in London, Andy has prepared sport tourism and event strategies for a number of cities and governments.


Originally published Apr 1, 2015

Author: Andy Preece