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Sir Rols

West Losing Major Events

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I wasn't sure exactly where to post this, but it's an interesting article touching on an isue near and dear to many of us here - the old "Traditional Powers" versus "New frontiers" debate:

Western countries are losing the race for major sporting events

By Søren Bang

Non-Western countries are now hosting the majority of sport’s mega-events. The biggest events are leaving Europe and North America and challenging the West’s traditional dominance. Prestige and profile are the driving forces behind this shift towards new countries and regimes.

Globalisation has turned on its turbo engine in the sporting world. An analysis conducted by the Danish Institute for Sports Studies (Idan) shows that in recent years the world’s biggest sporting events have been moving away with increasing speed from previous core Olympic sport domains in Europe, North America and, to some extent, Japan.

Just 10-20 years ago, it was considered an exception when major sporting events like the Olympic Games or the World Cup in football were held in countries outside of the Western world.

Today the picture is turned upside down. The most media-exposed and commercially powerful events are leaving the West in favour of new countries with global ambitions, growing economies and huge event budgets.

The shifting location of global mega-events, like the Olympic Summer and Winter Games, the World Cup in football, and the World Championships in athletics and swimming, highlights this evolution: Whereas the West and Japan shared all of the mega-events in the 1990s, under a quarter of these events will be held in these parts of the world after 2010 (see Figure 1).

Only next year’s Olympic Games in London and the World Championships in swimming in Barcelona in 2013 are within the West’s view, while FIFA’s recent awarding of the World Cup finals in football to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022, and the IOC’s choice of Rio de Janeiro as Olympic host in 2016 offer the most striking indications of a growing shift away from Western countries.

Some of the most attractive events staged in economically powerful and professionalised sport disciplines that do not hold their world championships in a single event are also becoming more global.

A notable example is Formula 1, which is tearing towards the East at full throttle. During the Grand Prix season in 2000, only three races were held outside Europe, North America and Australia. Ten years later, China, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain were included on the race calendar. In the current season, little less than half of the season’s 19 races will be held in non-Western countries.

A similar pattern can be seen in tennis, where the WTA tour in particular has become global. Ten years ago, only Tokyo laid claim to a top-tier WTA tournament. In 2010, four of the 14 largest tournaments, including the four Grand Slam tournaments, were held in the Middle East and Asia.

Customers moving away

This development is recognised by Lars Haue-Pedersen, the director of international consultancy firm TSE Consulting. From its headquarters in Lausanne and its regional offices around the world, TSE Consulting, among other things, assists applicants in bidding for major sporting events.

“We see plainly first-hand that our customers are moving away from Europe. Five years ago, a clear majority of our customers were in Europe, but now the majority of our customers are outside Europe. We’re opening offices in Brazil, Qatar, Singapore, Northern Africa, but not in Europe.”

Although the West is losing its grip on the world’s largest sporting events, the decline is less dramatic among other World Championship and World Cup tournaments: 70 out of 102 events held or allocated after 2010 lie in Western countries. The low collective tally of events from 2010 onward indicates that many of the events proposed for the current decade are yet to be allocated.

One reason why many countries are fighting over events could simply be that more countries now have the infrastructure and raw economic strength to accommodate them.

The countries that are actively pursuing and acquiring events, like Brazil, Qatar, China and Korea, are prime examples of growing economies. In contrast, poorer African countries lying south of the Sahara Desert (except wealthier South Africa) are completely absent from the list of new mega-event hosts.

But why spend millions on stadium facilities and events in countries that, in spite of their economic growth, often struggle with significant social challenges, and which economically still have to bridge the gap with the West? According to Lars Haue-Pedersen, it reflects the aim of overcoming prejudices among Western countries and positioning rising nations globally.

“When people think of Qatar, they think about big events and extravagant arrangements, whereas Saudi Arabia is just associated with Islamic conservatism. Countries want to be seen as modern nations. They hate the stereotypical perceptions people have of them in the ‘old’ world. But it takes a long time to become modern. It is easier to influence the outside world’s perceptions – and this is where sport and sporting events help,” says Haue-Pedersen.

“These events offer shortcuts in the ways in which others see them. A country can advance years ahead in a matter of three weeks. Today people see South Africa a little differently [due to the World Cup in 2010, ed.] from the way they did one year ago. Is that enough? Yes, I think so. They have a number of stadiums that stand empty and will become dilapidated from now on, but to pay such a price that is peanuts compared to a half percent increase in exports.”

The desire to improve global image among these nations can explain why major events that have the most media interest and prestige are also the most attractive. This applies strongly to Formula 1, which is particularly attractive as a recurring event.

“Formula 1 is a classic example of this phenomenon. Formula 1 is considered by many of the new markets to be the coolest event. It not only attracts media attention during the weekend it takes place, the host joins ‘the club’. It gets a stamp of approval that its country or city is ‘something’. It is incredibly important for a small city or country like Abu Dhabi or Bahrain to be involved in Formula 1, because from there the event continues on to Japan, Melbourne and England.”

Europe still holding the majority of smaller events

Idan’s research also indicates that new event markets are focusing primarily on mega-events. If these larger sporting events are taken out of the equation, the overall change seems less dramatic (see Figure 2).

The Western countries still have their hands on approximately seven out of the ten world championship events in Summer Olympic disciplines, supplemented by a handful of single sporting events that are not a part of the Summer Olympic program. The allocation of these events has more or less remained constant since 2000.

This may change in the coming years, but geographic, climatic and cultural factors are working against the complete globalisation of all sport disciplines. For example, alpine skiing events require snow and mountains, which – for now – pose a barrier to even the most sports-interested oil sheik. A discipline’s connection to a specific sport culture can also slow down its extending to a wider event market. American football, baseball and cricket are examples of such sports.

Back to the “mother ship”

But generally, the wider market for sporting events has strengthened the right owners of sport events, typically the international federations, who can benefit from having more potential bidders in the market – bidders that, in some cases, also offer centralised and rapid decision-making procedures due to weaker or absent democratic traditions in their countries.

At the same time the development can weaken the West’s influence on international sport. Lars Haue-Pedersen predicts that “countries that are organising major events and investing a great deal in sport will start seeking to influence organisations,” and notes Mohamed Bin Hammam’s candidature at the forthcoming FIFA Presidency election as a clear example.

But if highly sought after mega-events move too sharply away from the West, they could run into longer term problems. The main income sources to sport in terms of sponsorships and TV rights are still generated in Western countries, and according to Lars Haue-Pedersen it is still the connection to the Western world that gives major sporting events their global glamour and value.

“There is a risk that the value of events will fall. Maybe FIFA has made a big mistake in placing the two World Cups after Brazil in what could be called ‘new markets’. This could perhaps become the deathblow for the football World Cup, because 90% of the revenue from football still comes from Europe. Fans may start saying that the World Cup has become a strange third world development project and decide not to attend the event at all,” says Haue-Pedersen, who believes that major events held outside the Western world would need to turn back to the “mother ship” (i.e., the West) from time to time to gather public interest, economic value and global prestige.

“It was, in fact, the World Cup in Germany that put the energy and focus back into World Cup football – it was not South Africa. Therefore, it is not good for Russia to host the World Cup after South Africa and Brazil. It could make the event a bit ‘second class’ in relation to prestige. So I think that FIFA has made a mistake.”

Figure 1: Location of five mega-events (number of events per region)

RTEmagicC_BangFigure1_03.jpg.jpg

Figure 2: The West’s grip on other world championship events remains firm (events per region)RTEmagicC_BangFigure2_01.jpg.jpg

Playthegame.org

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Well, it was only a matter of time.

But it was Blatter's fault for staging 2 WC awards simultaneously just to upstage the IOC. A really idiotic move FIFA may live to regret but for which the Old Fool won't be around to witness. And why do the rank and file of these organizations swear fealty to the old codgers of their orgs, I'll never understand.

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I think it's a pretty fair piece in canvassing both the pros and cons of going to "new frontiers". Usually such articles (and debates here) tend to become one-sided "we MUST pick the technical best" or "We MUST move to new hosts" arguments.

But it was Blatter's fault for staging 2 WC awards simultaneously just to upstage the IOC.

Aah, but remember there's also a strong surge of sympathy and expectation for the IOC to follow-up their Rio "new frontier" experiment with a second immediate helping in South Africa. Even if such a sequence could met exactly the type of issues canvassed above re FIFA's global moves.

I still think the IOC will tread a more cautious path in making the 2020 decision.

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A number of stadiums that stand empty in South Africa?

Heck even Peter Mokaba hosted a match last weekend.

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Once the IOC and FIFA have got this out of their system we'll be back towards a more normal rotation, and Africa, the Middle East, South America will be a bit more established and won't be given the privilege of, for example, having a bidding round to themsleves. This may be a short-term splurge rather than a long-term trend.

I mean, you look at South America and Africa. Once both Brazil and South Africa's World Cups have passed by there's suddenly a paucity of countries on those continents who are capable of hosting. Argetina and possibly somewhere like Egypt at a push, whereas Europe and to a lesser extent Asia have many, many more potential hosts; it's simple maths. Plus the appetite for showing off to the world that "we've been to Africa" won't be there anymore so the task becomes harder for bidding nations than it would have been for Rio or South Africa (or particularly Brazil 2014, which had zero competition).

The other point this article raises is prestige and it cites F1. Do places like Abu Dhabi really "get" F1 though? It seems to me their races are all about show and not about substance. Crazy multi-billion pound race circuits on artificial islands with LED covered hotels and tall towers, but boring racing and a sterile atmosphere. I've the same fear for Qatar's World Cup; though I've buckets of schadenfreude already filled if that scenario does come to pass.

I think new frontiers for new frontiers' sake is dangerous, as is letting the $$$ get in the way of sporting considerations, as I think F1 and indeed FIFA have been guilty of.

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Once the IOC and FIFA have got this out of their system we'll be back towards a more normal rotation, and Africa, the Middle East, South America will be a bit more established and won't be given the privilege of, for example, having a bidding round to themsleves. This may be a short-term splurge rather than a long-term trend.

I mean, you look at South America and Africa. Once both Brazil and South Africa's World Cups have passed by there's suddenly a paucity of countries on those continents who are capable of hosting. Argetina and possibly somewhere like Egypt at a push, whereas Europe and to a lesser extent Asia have many, many more potential hosts; it's simple maths. Plus the appetite for showing off to the world that "we've been to Africa" won't be there anymore so the task becomes harder for bidding nations than it would have been for Rio or South Africa (or particularly Brazil 2014, which had zero competition).

I agree, this is a passing fad, not the wave of the future. There's only so many cities and countries willing to host these events. Sure it's nice to send the Olympics to Rio or the World Cup to Russia, but it'll be a generation (at least) before we see those places get those events again. There's a reason FIFA dropped their full rotation policy because there's too many countries in Europe and too few countries elsewhere that want a piece of the action. And again, let's not read anything into Qatar 2022 other than a measure of corruption that I sincerely hope FIFA comes to regret because it seemed like an awful decision 5 months ago and I'm less than convinced it'll look better any time in the next 11+ years.

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