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Going the Distance

SportBusiness International looks at this month’s World Half Marathon Championships in Copenhagen, an event with significant growth potential according to world athletics’ governing body.

Denmark has developed an enviable reputation for bringing an innovative approach to its sporting events, and on March 29 it will add its own flavour to the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) World Half Marathon Championships.

About 30,000 people have entered the mass participation race that will be held as part of the men’s championship race, which will start and finish in front of the Danish parliament building in Copenhagen.

An entertainment programme will kick-off nearly three hours before the start, and during the race there will be more than 25 bands along the course to add to the party atmosphere. Organisers are also optimistic that Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, an International Olympic Committee member and the first in line to the Danish thrown, will compete in the event.

Whilst Denmark and Copenhagen will add its flair to the championships, the IAAF is also keen for the event to continue to evolve in its own right.

“We expect the number of participating member federations and championship runners to increase from past editions of the event,” IAAF competitions director Paul Hardy told SportBusiness International. “This will be the first time the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships have been held in the spring, having moved from the autumn.

“The shift of date, together with the appeal of a mass race with 30,000 participants in a major capital city, should help to raise the profile and exposure of the event.”

First held in 1992, the World Half Marathon Championships took place on an annual basis until 2010, when the event became biennial in an attempt to increase the popularity of the event.

“Current plans are to keep this event every two years,” Hardy said, adding that the success of the switch from autumn to spring would be evaluated following this year’s event. “The main challenge for the World Half Marathon Championships is competition with the many other road races that take place on any given weekend around the world, but the depth of this event is incomparable.

“While many other major road races recruit a specific number of elite athletes, the event attracts elite athletes from countries around the world. We would like to continue to see the World Half Marathon Championships as part of a bigger race weekend. Linking to major metropolitan cities with large mass events is a key element.”

According to Lars Vallentin, director of sports events at the Wonderful Copenhagen tourism agency, the World Half Marathon Championships will be guaranteed to receive excellent exposure on a local level through the bumper audience watching along the course.

“We expect more than 300,000 spectators in the streets of Copenhagen to watch the race and support the runners,” he told SportBusiness International. “We could have had 10,000 more entries for the [mass-participation] race, but to make sure that we deliver the highest quality, we decided to limit the number of runners to 30,000.”

In recent years, Copenhagen has hosted the 2011 UCI (International Cycling Union) World Road Championships and Ironman Copenhagen triathlon event, while it is also bidding for the 2018 IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) World Championships and wants to be a host city of games at UEFA Euro 2020.

With the support of Wonderful Copenhagen, as well as the Sport Event Denmark national events agency, Copenhagen feels ready to flex its muscle on the event-hosting stage says Vallentin.

“The event is a perfect fit and match for Copenhagen,” he adds. “Copenhagen is the perfect example of how a rather small city in a small country can punch above its weight and set example for other cities around the world.

“Over the past 10 years no event has been too small for Copenhagen and now no event is too big for Copenhagen.

“The story of Copenhagen is a story about a host city with the proven ability to organise successful events in creative, green and beautiful surroundings. A host city where all events – big and small – are completely integrated into the life of the city and therefore activate the citizens, as well as guests, right from the beginning.

“The successful hosting of the World Half Marathon Championships will support our efforts to bring more major events to Copenhagen. We are amongst the fastest growing city destinations in Europe, and a constant development in hotel capacity. Huge investments in sports and cultural attractions and events has helped this growth.”

For an exclusive video interview with Sport Event Denmark, available only to SportBusiness International subscribers, discussing where the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships fit into the country’s wider hosting strategy, click here.

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