It has been a very good couple of weeks for all those who like to see world class sport up close. With announcements being made this week about next year's Tour De France opening in London and European Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham, UK Sport has been busy on the major events front.
Fans of track cycling will be able to see the world's best close up when Manchester hosts the 2008 World Championships - the third time that the city's velodrome will have hosted the event. Then came news from across the city that Salford is aiming to bring the World Triathlon Championships to the UK in 2010. Both initiatives have received critical backing from UK Sport's Lottery backed Major Events Programme.
"The awarding of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to London on 6th July means that it is more important than ever to continue attracting sporting events of strategic importance to the UK. Hosting events in this country is an integral part of delivering the best prepared team for 2012 - athletes gain experience competing in major events on home soil and officials and volunteers receive valuable training opportunities", said John Scott, UK Sport's International Director.
UK Sport's drive to attract Major Events has ensured a range of opportunities to see some of our best athletes close up. The World Rowing Championships will be held at Eton - which will be the London 2012 Olympic regatta course - in August, as GB's men's coxless four and women's quad seek to hold on to their world titles and others seek to follow in their footsteps. The world's best Paralympic athletes will converge on Manchester to take part in the Paralympic World Cup in May, while Birmingham will play host to Judo and Trampolining world cup events in April and November respectively. Sailing fans can check out the next generation of Olympic stars as Weymouth - also a London 2012 venue - hosts the World Youth Sailing Championships in July.
UK Sport's World Class Events Programme has already supported more than 100 sporting events of strategic importance since 1997 across 25 sports, with research stating that every £1 invested leverages £7 return to the local economy. It will look to build on this success in the run up to 2012 and beyond, where the focus of the programme will not only be on London, but also securing major events around the country, ensuring that benefits are distributed around as many areas as possible.
A strategic review has identified that an additional average cost of £1.7 million per annum will be necessary to support the World Class Events Programme to optimise the opportunities that 2012 will bring (based on our anticipated conversion rate of 80%).
UK Sport is committed to finding the money to support this proposal, with the full support of its Board. As Scott explained:
"We will initially draw upon extra revenue generated from increased Lottery receipts and will also investigate how money can be reallocated to achieve this over the coming years as the opportunity to bid for events increases. The latter will be done by looking closely at existing internal budgets to release the necessary resource.
"The World Class Events Programme has been highlighted as a strategic priority for the organisation."