In the wake of the Greek financial crisis some commentators are rightly questioning the sense in hosting major sporting events. Smart countries, like Australia, are focusing their attention on niche events, or getting the big ones right.

On a rugby sideline in Sydney just recently, watching the match of the day between the Norwest Bulls and the Drummoyne Dirty Reds battling it out in the highly contested Under 13 Division C competition, talk amongst some parents turned to the troubles in Greece. Norwest, my son’s team, was losing badly, and one of the other dads of Greek heritage was reminiscing of a recent return to his homeland. I mentioned a story I had read somewhere online in which the author said that Athens hosting the Olympic Games in 2004 had contributed to their financial trouble. The Greeks reportedly spent $12.7 billion on hosting those games.

The dad chuckled and said that there were other reasons why Greece was in such difficulties, with corruption being one of them and stupid choices the other.

He said that unlike Sydney following its Olympic Games in 2000, Greece didn’t think smartly about what it was going to do with its venues when the games concluded. He went there sometime after 2004 and drove past the shiny new swimming centre and suggested to his relatives that he’d like to go for a swim there. They said for him to do that he had to be a member of a swimming club; he couldn’t just walk off the street and take a dip.

No wonder it’s in a state of disrepair a decade on.

Contrast that with the Sydney Olympic Park aquatic centre where anybody with a couple of bucks and a pair of cossies can take a dip and it’s not hard to understand why our games remain one of the most successful.

Our Olympic venues are continuing to be used and patronised. Take a trip to Homebush or Sydney Olympic Park any day of the week and particularly on weekends and you will see that the talk of “white elephant” is well and truly behind us.

It has to be said that we are smart at events – big and small. There have been controversies with some events (people continue to complain about the cost of Victoria hosting the Australian Grand Prix), and not all have been the success that we expected them to be, however, there are many more that are proving to be working so well.

Right now there is an entrepreneurial spirit from the private and public sectors when it comes to events which is giving Australia as a whole a real edge in attracting more visitors.

As this article is being written soccer matches are being played in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane with some of the biggest clubs in the world – English Premier League giants Liverpool FC and Manchester City, European powerhouses Real Madrid and FC Porto – taking on each other and our local teams.

Matches have been sell-outs, hotel beds have been filled, restaurants buzzing, and social media on fire.

Tourism and Events Queensland supported the hosting of Liverpool FC, with its CEO, Leanne Coddington, commenting that events play a vital role in promoting a destination, driving tourism and fostering community pride.

Other partners included Stadiums Queensland, Brisbane Marketing, Brisbane Airport Corporation, Suncorp Stadium, and AEG Ogden.

The match proudly joins the It’s Live! in Queensland events calendar which the government is continuing to add to through a range of new initiatives.

New South Wales might

In typical parochial style, New South Wales believes that it leads the nation when it comes to attracting and hosting events. And, looking at its calendar, it’s not hard to see why.

Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase, reports that the organisation supported 136 events in 2014 which contributed more than $500 million in visitor spend to the state’s economy.

As well as securing exclusive visits from international sporting teams like Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur, Destination NSW is still celebrating the conclusion of its annual Vivid Sydney event which saw a record number of visitors in 2015.

And it’s also assisting in securing more niche events like the just announced L’Etape Australia by Le Tour de France, which is heading to regional New South Wales in 2016.

L’Etape Australia is described as a premier amateur road cycling event, held under the banner of the world’s most iconic cycling race, the Tour de France.

The event takes place over three days in December 2016 in Jindabyne, Perisher, and Thredbo with the Alps and the Pyrenees replaced by the stunning landscapes of the New South Wales Snowy Mountains. Riders will compete for the legendary Tour de France yellow, green, polka dot, and white jerseys.

Destination NSW has secured this event for the next three years with SBS and Lateral Events running and promoting it.

Already the NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, and Minister for Sport, Stuart Ayres, is predicting $4 million in visitor expenditure across the three years that the event will be held.

Lateral Events CEO, Simon Baggs, (also the Chairman of Meetings & Events Australia), has just returned from the Tour de France and to view the French version of L’Etape, is understandably excited about L’Etape Australia which will be a major addition to his company’s event portfolio.

Aside from creating corporate events the company has a long history of managing commercially minded events including the Tennis Masters Cup and special events with high-profile individuals including Sir David Attenborough, Heston Blumenthal, Michael Palin, internationally-renowned scientist, Brian Cox, to name a few.
Of L’Etape he says: “We relish the challenge of presenting an event run at international professional standards for Australia’s ever growing army of amateur riders and establishing this event as an extraordinary must-do cycle event – the excitement is palpable,” he said.

Securing the event was serendipitous to say the least, Baggs said.

“I went to talk to SBS about football and SBS said that’s good but you should have a look at this event called L’Etape. What they wanted to do was explore the live events [space] and bring the Tour de France brand live to Australia.”

L’Etape du Tour (French for `a stage of the tour’) was established in 1993 by ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation) to allow amateur cyclists an opportunity to experience a stage of the Tour de France first hand. ASO has since extended the L’Etape concept internationally bringing the Tour de France experience to the UK, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, and now Australia.

Baggs agrees there is a true entrepreneurial spirit in the events space in Australia right now, and not just in sport, citing Vivid Sydney as an event that from a small idea has now become an annual celebration firmly entrenched in the NSW events calendar.

“If you think about the sports landscape and what is being delivered it has been very much the same for the last 15 years.

“We believe that with L’Etape we can make the whole experience far better.”

Part of the strategy is greater engagement with participants who will not only be the “kings of the road” during the length of the event but the real driving force of its success.

It has to be said that this is a little akin to the trend sweeping today’s forward thinking conference programs where there is a move away from passive delegate observation to one of engagement and interactivity.

Gold Coast Commonwealth Games

In preparation for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, Gold Coast Tourism CEO, Martin Winter, believes the games will leave a positive and enduring legacy for the region, unlike what has been experienced in Athens with the Olympic Games.

“The Barcelona Olympics re-started a love affair for Spanish culture and food, the Sydney Olympics demonstrated that world-class sporting events could be held south of the equator. For the Gold Coast it will be a ‘coming of age’, where a young and ambitious city demonstrates its dynamic and can-do credentials to the world,” Winter says.

“From the start we have been very mindful of the waste that has been expended unnecessarily, so we are building infrastructure that will be used by the community following the event. The main stadium for instance is already being used week in week out for AFL, the new pool complex is being used daily by the general public and for elite training, and all of the newly-built indoor facilities have tenants to use them.

“The hockey field will be world-class and will attract local, state, national, and international use, and the velodrome, located in Brisbane, will be used by the whole of Queensland after the event.

“Most importantly, the athletes’ village has been located adjacent to the new Gold Coast hospital and Griffith University precinct. It will provide affordable housing for students and the community working in the precinct.”

Transport infrastructure is already being utilised.

“The light rail, which in its first year has exceeded all patronage expectations, runs from the hospital right through the heart of the Gold Coast to the convention and exhibition centre at Broadbeach, providing great connectivity and an excellent option for delegates and other visitors to traverse the region’s beaches, restaurants, and entertainment areas.

“The Gold Coast is currently experiencing an unprecedented level of confidence. The sky is littered with cranes building new hotels, when complete, Pacific Fair Shopping Centre will become the preeminent shopping experience in Australia and the Gold Coast Airport is about to undertake a $200 million dollar expansion.

“The next few years are indeed exciting times for Australia’s favourite holiday destination.”