Simon Morton, Head of Major Events at UK Sport, blogs on the UK Major Events programme.
Whenever the hot topic of ‘legacy’ is discussed in relation to London 2012, it is often forgotten that the benefits to the UK of awarding the Olympic and Paralympic Games to London started almost immediately.
UK Sport’s World Class Events Programme began with the introduction of National Lottery funding for elite sport back in 1997. However, it was the successful bid that led to investment in the UK’s events programme being doubled to £3.5m per year. In practical terms, from 2006 to 2007 we were able to treble the number of world class events being brought to the UK, and it’s been on the increase ever since. In 2011 we’re supporting a record 27 major international events on home soil in what will be a critical year of preparation.
Essentially, this means that British sport will head into a home Olympic and Paralympic Games with almost all of our national governing bodies having hosted a world class event. Our current priority is to support athlete preparation – we know that competing at an international level on home soil can be an infrequent and fundamentally different experience for many Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Through this programme, most British athletes and their support staff will have experienced and rehearsed for the unique environment of competing at home, and the biggest moment of their sporting lives.
Through its extensive preparations for London 2012, the UK is developing a world-leading event-staging system that makes it well-placed to bid for some of the very biggest events after the Games. Ahead of London 2012, our strategy has been to focus on hosting annual World Series events such as the FINA Diving World Series in Sheffield, the ITU World Triathlon Championships Series in London, and the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Manchester.
We have helped pioneer new annual events such as the ISAF Sail for Gold Regatta in Weymouth and Taekwondo’s British International Open which has earned prestigious WTF World Class status. This strategy has provided the UK with a regular hosting presence on the international circuits of those sports, and repeat opportunities to improve our event delivery. Around 27,000 opportunities have been provided for officials and volunteers at significant world-level competitions on home soil, and over 3.5m spectators will have seen some of the world’s finest elite athletes across the 35 host towns and cities around the UK.
This strategy of staging regular World Series events ahead of the Games has also helped build meaningful relationships with many International Federations (IFs) and positioned the UK as a reliable and attractive hosting partner. We can’t take for granted the UK’s position at the top table of international sport – this needs to be earned and we need to contribute towards their objectives. Major events are an excellent way of achieving this, as they are business critical to most Ifs; events act as the main shop window for their sports, and increasingly they drive revenue to support their operations. Consequently we find that the host countries of IF events can become important and influential stakeholders in those sports.
How can we be certain that all this won’t simply slip away after London 2012? Over the past year we have worked with national governing bodies to develop the UK’s programme of major event hosting targets through to 2018, and the hosting ambition of our sports is now extremely high. We are talking with sports about bids for major World Championships where, several years ago, they had comparatively little international hosting experience. This tangible progress in developing the UK’s event-staging assets, expertise and ambition is legacy in action. We’re confident that the groundwork over the last five years will not only help to deliver a fantastic Games in 2012, but will in turn cement our position internationally as a world leader in hosting major international sporting events.
Find out more at www.uksport.gov.uk/events.
This blog was first published on Inside the Games