As one of the most affluent cities in the world, and the capital of the globe’s fifth-largest economy, London has never been a desert for high-profile sporting events.
From home-grown staples like Wimbledon and the marathon to finals of global showpieces such as the football and rugby World Cups, London has provided a stage for the biggest sporting events throughout its history.
But the genesis of London as the sporting capital of the 21st century can be traced back to July 6, 2005 – the day the city beat Paris to the rights to host the 2012 Olympic Games, by four votes. Since then, sporting events have become part of the very fabric of the city.
In 2007, the National Football League brought the first of its regular-season fixtures to London, a tentative experiment in globalisation that has since expanded to four games played annually at three different venues across the city.
The National Basketball Association soon followed, and has staged a competitive game in London every year since 2011. This year, Major League Baseball announced it will follow suit, with two games to be played at the former Olympic Stadium in 2019.
Uefa Champions League finals were held at Wembley in 2011 and 2013, while 2014 saw the Tour de France pass through London. Twickenham staged its second Rugby World Cup final in 2015, the same year Formula E staged its season finale in Battersea Park for the first time. The 2017 IAAF World Championships reinvigorated the city’s love for athletics.
It is no surprise, then, to see London reclaiming the title of SportBusiness’ Ultimate Sports City, four years on from its last win in 2014.
“London is the sporting capital of the world,” a spokesperson for London’s City Hall said in a statement to SportBusiness International. “One of the main reasons global sports events choose to come to London is because they know our world-class sports stadiums will be full of sports-mad, passionate Londoners. London sports fans are highly knowledgeable and will turn out in their tens of thousands to watch every kind of sport on offer.
“No other city does world-class sport quite like London – proud to see our capital named the SportBusiness Ultimate Sports City of 2018.” – Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
“Last year we hosted record crowds for the World Athletics and Para Athletics Championships and the NFL matches played in London sell out almost as soon as they go on sale. I am sure that we will see this happening again when we host the ICC Cricket World Cup and Major League Baseball next year, and seven matches at Wembley for the Euro 2020 championships.”
Upon the announcement of the award, at a ceremony at SportAccord in Bangkok in April, Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, tweeted: “No other city does world-class sport quite like London – proud to see our capital named the SportBusiness International Ultimate Sports City of 2018.”
Our panel of independent industry judges were highly impressed with London’s development, with the city taking home a further two awards on the night: Best Legacy and Best Marketing & Branding.
“London’s all-round offering as a destination for sport made it a logical choice as the Ultimate Sports City,” said Kelly Fairweather, chief operating officer of the International Tennis Federation and a member of the independent judging panel for the Ultimate Sports City award.
Sean Parry, senior consultant at The Sports Consultancy and another of the judges, added: “London has consistently demonstrated all-round excellence, consolidating its reputation as a worldleading host destination for global sports events.”
The legacy award is of particular significance for a city that has placed great stock in using the Olympic Games as a platform for development. “The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games were a huge success for London, both on the track off the track with the legacy it has left behind in East London,” said City Hall.
“You only have to look at the new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the surrounding area to see the transformation that has happened as part of the legacy story from 2012.
“We’re seeing world-class sport being played at the London Stadium, Copperbox and Lee Valley velodrome, and this area of east London is the fastest growing area of the capital with 110,000 additional jobs created since the Games.” Z
This article is part of SportBusiness’ Ultimate Sports City report 2018. Browse the other sections of the report or download the PDF version here.