Bidding to host regional and international events

In the recent past newly appointed Minister of Sport, Cecil Mc Kie, has addressed among other things the need for government to be approached by national sports associations before seeking to host regional and international events here.
The suggestion is not at all new and has been discussed on many occasions and forms part of the existing national sports policy of this country. The problem has to do with the government’s own failure to adequately implement this aspect of the policy as is the case with so many other aspects of it.

What to bid for?
Each national sports association is part of a broader international family. There are also regional components to this family.
Sports associations at the regional and international level have a variety of activities that can be hosted in the country of any of their members, should adequate facilities exist. These activities include Executive meetings of the regional and international bodies, specialised workshops/seminars (athletes, coaches, technical officials and administrators), specific anniversary celebrations and of course, competitions for different categories of athletes.
Why bid?
National governing bodies for sports often seize the opportunity to bid to host some of the activities of their regional and international federations for a variety of reasons.
Promotion of the country
Some seek to host activities because it brings immediate attention to the country on which they are being held. The fact that representative of other countries are attending an activity here, for example, would mean that they would first inform their respective country media of their involvement here. Our local media would also be involved in promoting the activity and inform the regional and international media in the process.
Participants may become involved in promoting the activity and the country hosting it through the social media networks.
An example of how the promotion takes place was our recent hosting of the three One-Day Internationals (ODI). Lovers of cricket around the world received live images of St Vincent and the Grenadines and our people. Add to this the word=of-mouth promotion we would receive from the Australians and visitors from other countries who were here to witness the matches and move around the country.
Others bid because they wish to persuade the government to finally provide the infrastructure required by their respective organisations if they are to make progress consistent with the established regional and international standards.
This was the focus of the local Cricket authorities in bidding to host the ‘goat cook’ matches of the Cricket World Cup in 2007. It was an opportunity to get the facilities at Arnos Vale the much-needed lift to bring them in line with modern trends even around the Caribbean.
This was again the purpose for seeking to host the recent three ODIs here.
Tennis got its first four courts by dint of the national association’s desire to host regional activities. However, once it recognised that more courts were needed it bid to host the Americas Zone Group 4 Davis Cup tournament. The government quickly provided the additional courts as required by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Boosting the economy
Another factor involved in bidding to host regional and international events relate directly to economic considerations – the amount of money that the visitors would spend while in the host country. This is sports tourism.
A good example is the recent hosting of the Commonwealth Games Federation’s (CGF) and Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) annual General Assemblies in St Kitts and Nevis in November 2011.
The National Olympic Committee/Commonwealth Games Association procured the government’s support and submitted a bid to host the events as far back as 2009 leaving them two years to get themselves adequately prepared.
Some participants came early and left late, spending thousands of dollars in the process. All told, representatives from seventy one countries trekked into St Kitts and Nevis for a minimum of three days. There were more than 500 visitors. Several participants brought their spouses with them.
Hambantota of Sri Lanka and the Gold Coast of Queensland Australia were bidding to host the Commonwealth Games of 2018 and brought large contingents. Hambantota alone brought an entourage of 160 persons while Australia had 50.
The two bidding cities hosted their respective booths at the Marriott hotel, venue of the CGF Assemblies and organised several activities while there that necessitated the employment of scores of Kittitians for the period.
While in St Kitts and Nevis several of the participants would have undertaken tours and engaged in shopping.
In the final analysis it is estimated that more that $1.5m USD were generated over the short period.
Additionally, there is the fact that several of the participants may have been sufficiently enthused to want to return with family and friends to spend a vacation in the twin-island Federation.
Another reason for some organisations bidding to host regional and international sports event has to do with the possibilities offered on such occasions to get elected to positions on these bodies.
The hosting of regional and international events allows the participants to gain greater insight into the administrative capabilities of the leadership of the host organisation. In cases where the activities being hosted involve election of officers there is always a tendency for the membership of the regional and international organisations to show their appreciation for the tremendous work involved to elect at least one person from the host nation desirous of getting onto the executive committee or other arm of the regional or international organisation.
When St Vincent and the Grenadines hosted the Congress of the Caribbean basketball fraternity the local body gained two positions on the regional organisation, one of which was the position of General Secretary. Sabrina Mitchell was elected to this position and has been making major headway at the continental level. She is a well-respected and hard-working representative of this country at the regional and international levels.
What is needed to bid?
There are many factors that would facilitate the success of a bid. We draw attention to some of them here.
The national sports organisation must have an interest in the sport enough to be fully involved in the activities of its regional and international activities. No regional and /or international sports organisation would care much for a national association that has not been participating in its several activities over the years. There has to be a record of participation.
Government’s pledge of support
The broad spectrum attendant to hosting an activity of a regional and/or international nature is such that the government of the sports association desirous of bidding to host it must provide a written document declaring its support for the organisation’s bid.
This is necessary since regardless of what the organisation may wish to think there are several areas where success is tied to government’s involvement and support.
In some instances visas may be required. Often times visitors and provided easy access to the country than would otherwise be the case. This was the case when the CARICOM leaders collectively agreed an Immigration stamp that allowed visitors to the Cricket World Cup in 2007 access throughout member States for the period of the event. They enjoyed hassle-free status that to this day the average individual citizen of CARICOM member Stats are yet to enjoy.
Similarly, the government tends to offer a much more relaxed Customs experience for participants in these regional and international activities when hosted.
The government often facilitates having the participants met at the airport and offered a warm VIP welcome to the host country.
The government is often requested to host some sort of reception for the participants.
In some cases departure taxes are waived.
National sports associations desirous of hosting regional and international activities must ensure that there are adequate facilities to do so. This is the reason that Arnos Vale had to receive the extensive and expensive overhaul between 2005 and 2007. The recent expenditures – $250,000 – were necessitated more by inadequate maintenance than anything else.
Facilities include adequate accommodation of a certain level/status, easy communications, comfortable and efficient transportation, competent and courteous liaison officers, a most efficient secretariat, easy access to tours, shopping and banks.
Above all the people of the host nation must be sensitised to the activity being hosted enough to play their part in showing the visitors that while a single association may have been afforded the right to host the event the entire nation regards itself as being directly involved.
All too often national sports associations hosting events see the population as only important to procuring tickets. They forget that the visitors encounter the population in several different ways and garner impressions of the entire society in the process.
Bidding to host an event requires great attention and cannot be taken lightly.
National sports associations need to come together to fashion a strategy that would involve the deliberate preparation of the national sports fraternity to develop a cadre with the requisite education, training and competencies to facilitate our venture into the world of sports tourism.
The successes we have attained thus far is reflective of individual efforts and hit or miss strategies. We must do much better than that.
The process of preparation must begin now.