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The Road Ahead

Elisha Chauhan speaks to three confirmed and potential future hosts of the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, and finds out how they intend to maximise the opportunities presented by FIG (the International Gymnastics Federation)’s flagship event.

 

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Following its hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth Games – which many observers consider to have been the best ever – Glasgow will ensure the sporting world’s eyes remain fixed on the Scottish city by hosting the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

Hosting rights were won in May 2011 over competing bidders Paris and Orlando, with Glasgow winning 23 votes against the United States’ 13 votes in the second round.

An estimated 525 gymnasts from 80 countries will take part in the 10-day competition. British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen – whose national governing body developed the 2015 Glasgow bid in collaboration with national sports investment body UK Sport, EventScotland and the Glasgow city council – believes that hosting the event is a natural progression for the region.

“The 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships are one of the most prestigious major events in the Olympic cycle because they act as a qualification round for the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio. The event will draw huge interest from around the world,” Allen told SportBusiness International.

We felt the 2015
Championships was
an event that
Glasgow is
ready to host

“British Gymnastics already hosted the 2009 World Championships in London, but in the world of gymnastics, hosting the first Championships in the Olympic cycle is not considered as prestigious as an Olympic qualifier event.

“The 2015 event is much bigger, in terms of international interest and TV coverage, and we felt it was an event that Glasgow is ready to host.”

The 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships will be hosted at the SSE Hydro (pictured above), a £120-million venue that was completed in September 2013 and hosted the Commonwealth Games gymnastics, as well as the finals for boxing and netball.

However, tickets for the 12,000-seater arena’s hosting of the event have been priced higher than that of sport at the Commonwealth Games, with an adult season pass for the finals costing £288. Despite this, Allen is hopeful that the event will be a sell-out.

“We are making around 40,000 tickets available for the Championships, and have currently sold 20 per cent of those with a year still to go until the event. I think the finals will be sold out, and we have a really good chance of being the first host to sell out the eight qualification events,” she adds.

“The tickets are very well priced when you compare them to the prices of the 2012 London Olympic Games gymnastics. And given the success of the Commonwealth Games, despite those tickets costing less than what we are selling, spectators are coming to see the best gymnasts in the world.”

Glasgow has built up local interest in gymnastics since it hosted its first ever FIG grand prix event at Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena in 1997. The city was also one of only four cities to host the FIG’s grand prix series that took place between 2011 and 2013, which drew sell-out crowds at the Emirates Arena.

Allen says that whilst the 2015 Championships organisers plan to create the best possible environment for gymnasts hoping to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, they also want to promote Glasgow to international markets, particularly as a key destination on the major sports events circuit.

“We’re looking very closely at bringing on multinational companies to sponsor the event given the international TV coverage of the event,” she says. “We’re also keen to find supporting sponsors from major companies in Glasgow that may see value in being associated with the World Championships.

“We aim to provide a legacy for gymnastics in Scotland and the UK whilst also maximising on the commercial opportunities the event brings.” 

Uncertain Times

No city will host the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in 2016 as it is an Olympic year, however the 2017 event also remains without a host at present.

A hosting decision is expected to be announced at the FIG Congress in Uzbekistani capital Tashkent this month, with Montreal (Canada) the favourite; Canada’s national gymnastics federation developed a bid, with the backing of key funding bodies Sport Canada and MELS (Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports), and the Championships would coincide with the city’s 375th anniversary.

“We haven’t submitted our bid to the FIG yet, but we’re planning on sending it later this month (September),” Jean-Paul Caron, Gymnastics Canada expert consultant and bid leader told SportBusiness International.

Montreal Olympic Stadium – Paul Lloyd, Flickr

“One of the reasons we are bidding is because the City of Montreal approached us and was interested in having a major sports event on the back of its 375th anniversary celebrations. The city knew about the Championships, and said it was prepared to work with us and help fund the bidding and hosting.

“We’re just missing a bit of funding from the state to be able to move forward. We also need final authorisation from the City of Montreal. Other than that, we’re ready to go.

“We know that FIG could award the hosting rights at its Congress on October 29-30, but there is also scope for the FIG to re-open the bidding process should we not have our bid ready in time.”

Caron says he is not aware of any other city bidding for the event. The 2017 Championships would be held at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, which has a capacity of over 66,000 but which will be reduced to 10,000-15,000 seats for the event.

Prize Puller?

The 2018 edition of the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships has already been awarded to Qatari capital Doha, despite the current absence of a 2017 host.

Awarded the hosting rights in May this year, Doha plans to hold the event at the Aspire Dome, which opened in 2005 and has been a frequent host of the FIG Artistic Gymnastics Challenge Cup. The Qatar Gymnastics Federation (QGF) was established in 2000.

Over the past decade, Qatar has become a key destination on the international sports scene, with world championships in swimming (December), handball (2015), road cycling (2016) and the FIFA World Cup (2022) all lined up.

Aspire Dome at the Aspire Academy for Sports Excellence, Doha

Doha also submitted failed bids to host the 2016 and 2020 summer Olympics – neither of which made the candidate phase – however, the city is trying for a third-time-lucky 2024 bid. QGF president Ali Al-Hitmi is hoping the 2018 Championships will add to that bid’s credibility.

“Hosting the 2018 World Artistic Championships will help us in our bid to host the 2024 summer Olympics,” he told SportBusiness International. “The strategy for Qatar is to host major sports events in various sports every single year, and this is why we have the support of the Qatar Olympic Committee to host this event.

“Of course, we are a young federation, but we are starting from the level where other regions have stopped; we’re not starting from zero. We also have world-class facilities in Qatar, but we cannot have the best gymnasts without hosting and participating in the best gymnastics competition first.”

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