The Montréal 1976 Olympics might be of the most prominent example of a major sporting event bringing its host city more harm than benefits in the long run. Until today, the Canadian metropolis is paying off debts that were accumulated over 40 years ago. Major sporting events, however, do not necessarily have to be the harbinger of a city’s doom. For example, the Barcelona 1992 Olympics were the main driver behind Barça’s impressive rise to one of Europe’s commercial hotspots – and to one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.
As a potential host city working out a sporting event strategy, how can you make sure that you rather end up one the ‘Barcelona side’ of the equation, rather than on the ‘Montréal side’? The answer is simple: Only host events that suit the characteristics of your city.
But how do you find out which event suits you, and which event doesn’t? Evaluate them well before an eventual bid. The following five evaluation criteria help to establish a useful evaluation framework:
- Does the event fit with your city’s DNA?
A football world cup in a traditional winter sports destination? Olympic Games in a city that is famous for music and culture? Although this could all be part of a comprehensive repositioning, make sure the usefulness of the event is given before the bid – not searched for in retrospect.
- Reach of the event
Does the event attract the audiences you would like to address? If the reach of the event is big, ask yourself if you actually need this kind of reach. If the reach of the event is questionable, ask yourself if you could as well get a comparable reach by other means.
- Potential to succeed
This point was ignored or at least neglected too many times in the last century of sporting events. Is your city even capable to realise such a project? What do you need in order to realise it?
- Social and sporting benefits
A good sporting event is not an end in itself. It rather is a means to an end. Ask yourself how your city can benefit of the event in the long run. This includes both societal and sporting legacy. Which of the two should be given a higher weight, is depending on the city’s overall development strategy.
- Economic spinoffs
The magnitude of the secondary economic effects of major sporting events is widely disputed. Make sure to become an argument in favour of them – by conceptualising the economic spinoffs well in advance.
Interestingly enough, the above criteria are used by the city of Montréal in order to guide the decision-making process regarding sporting events. They have learned their lesson. Make sure you don’t have to learn it yourself.