Sydney Olympic Park and its key venue Sydney Showground proved to be an exceptional base for the high-profile IUCN World Parks Congress, held just once each decade.

According to ICMS Australasia’s Bryan Holliday, the PCO company charged with running the event for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and state and federal government bodies, Sydney Olympic Park was thought to be the perfect precinct for hosting a global meeting that has at its core strategies for providing inspiring solutions to parks, people, and the planet.

Held from November 12 to 19, it saw more than 6000 delegates from 160 countries engage in a weeklong series of meetings with one very clear aim: to shape national parks management around the world for the next decade and increase the percentage of land and oceans under protection.

Even if the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre was open at the time, Sydney Olympic Park was reportedly the venue of choice.

And for good reason, according to Sydney Olympic Park Authority CEO, Alan Marsh.

“The IUCN’s decision to hold its World Parks Congress here is a powerful validation of the effort that has gone into transforming this part of Sydney’s landscape into one of its most popular parklands,” he said.

What was once Sydney’s brickworks, abattoir and rubbish dump, now incorporates 430 hectares of parklands, extensive sporting and event facilities, hotels, apartments, and a growing list of corporate head offices.

What a win

Following the last congress in Durban in 2003, attended by Nelson Mandela, a bid team led by Business Events Sydney and the New South Wales Government and Federal Government reportedly lobbied to host the next event.

Their efforts paid handsomely, with the economic benefit to the city valued at around $34 million.

But more than that, the benefits beyond the conference were clearly a catalyst for the efforts in winning it for Australia.

As BE Sydney chief executive, Lyn Lewis-Smith explains, this congress is a perfect example of what meetings of this calibre can do to a city and country.

“The Promise of Sydney, which was presented at the closing plenary, demonstrates Sydney’s visionary thinking – drawing on the knowledge and passion of global thought leaders it will chart the future direction for protected areas, supported with promises or undertakings from participants and institutions to accelerate the changes. This is a strong testament to the value of meeting. The legacies are indeed broad and far reaching,” Ms Lewis-Smith said.

When looking back on this meeting, people will refer to the ‘Promise of Sydney’ as setting a new direction and a challenge to spur future efforts and progress for integrating protected areas in wider development and social issues.