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Rational calculation and strategic planning mark ideal hosts for the UCI

The International Cycling Union (UCI) has established one of the industry’s most innovative competition calendars, with its portfolio of events including the UCI Road World Championships, which took place most recently in September in Innsbruck, Austria. UCI business development manager Jérôme Lacroix explains how the body has honed its host city selection process.

INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA - SEPTEMBER 29: Winner Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands on the finish line during the Women Elite Road Race of UCI 2018 Road World Championships on September 29, 2018 in Innsbruck-Tirol, Austria. (Photo by Andrea Kareth /SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

What are the UCI’s priorities in terms of choosing a host city for an event?
The crucial condition for the UCI is that the event allows the city or region to achieve its strategic objectives. The initial stage is always a discussion with the candidate to gain an insight into their motivations and strategy. If we are convinced that one of our events can allow this strategy to be implemented, then we continue the discussions.
We also take into account a host city’s contribution to the development of the discipline. We assess whether there is a prestigious competition venue, an opportunity to open up a new market for the discipline or a reinforcement of tradition by a return to the sport’s stronghold.

We also consider the event’s legacy: the UCI requires the envisaged legacy to be outlined in the candidature file.

From an operational point of view, technical site visits and meetings with various local stakeholders must give us the guarantee of the candidate’s technical skills for the hosting of a UCI World Championships or UCI World Cup event. The UCI makes sure that the event quality meets the high standards that the athletes and fans deserve.

Finally, the organiser’s budget is carefully analysed by the UCI to make sure that the project has adequate funding and is based on realistic assumptions. The financial guarantees provided by the organiser are essential.

How have these considerations changed over the years as the event hosting model has evolved?
Increasingly, cities and regions have clear, long-term visions of their strategies. Until a few years ago, the most important factors in selecting events were personal preferences and perceived opportunities. The choices are now based on rational calculations and strategic planning. The potential return on investment is carefully examined.
The legacy of an event is an increasingly important factor in the deliberations by cities and our international federation. A major sporting event should leave a host city with tangible post-event benefits.

(Andrea Kareth /SEPA.Media /Getty Images)

What are the impacts that have been experienced by host cities of UCI events?
Firstly, the economic impact on the region. According to Ernst & Young, Bergen’s hosting of the UCI Road World Championships in 2017 contributed more than €25m ($29m) to the region’s economic growth. The teams, the media, partners and fans all spent money on hotels, restaurants, transport and so on.

Secondly, there is the tourism. The image of a city is enhanced by the media exposure that a sporting event brings. Crowds of fans also descend on the city. This is beneficial to the city’s brand image. To use Bergen as an example, 91 per cent of foreign fans said they would recommend the city to their friends and family.

Thirdly, there are social links. A major sporting event is an opportunity to forge social links within the local population through volunteering and increase participation in the various events associated with the competition. Innsbruck had more than 3,000 volunteers for the championships. The local community can cement the lasting legacy of the event.

Finally, there is the legacy. A UCI event can transform a city and cycling is more than just a sport, it is also a response to public health problems and environmental issues. Many cities use the hosting of a UCI event to invest in the development of cycling: programmes for schools, cycle lanes and so on.

What are the risks that should be considered by a host city when mitigating the risk factors inherent in hosting a major event?
It is essential not to overestimate the revenue from sponsorship. The market is very competitive. Identifying and retaining partners frequently takes a lot of time and effort. In the past, sponsorship was often used to cover the gap between expenses and revenue, but this was risky for organisers. We always encourage organisers to make conservative estimates in this respect.

The second issue to be considered from the very start of planning the event is security. The current environment means that many more security measures are required than was the case 10 years ago. The event’s budget can be put at risk if these costs are not taken into account. The bodies responsible for security must be involved from the initial planning of the project to allow any changes or improvements to be incorporated into the event concept, in this way optimising costs.

What have been the main lessons that have been learned from the staging of your events over the past two years and how can they be applied to future editions?
Highly successful events are always constructed on the same foundations: a strong link between the technical organisation team and the authorities, such as the local administration, police, customs and so on; a set of clear objectives; and planning carried out well in advance. This makes it possible to present a candidature file that is supported by all and which swings into action once the event has been awarded.

In recognition of this, the UCI includes key steps in its contracts to guide future organisers as much as possible in their planning and project development.

(Power Sport Images/Getty Images)

What can international federations and host cities do to portray the positive impact of staging an event?
The UCI pursues complete transparency towards the general public and host cities. Ernst & Young is mandated to attend many UCI events in order to provide an independent and objective assessment of the economic impact. This allows the authorities and local population to have an impartial view of the effects of an event.

What can cities do to make themselves more appealing as a host city to an international federation?
A key element is the capacity to offer a federation a long-term partnership. Our organisers can commit to two or three rounds of a World Cup followed by a World Championships. This helps in retaining partners and gaining experience – reassuring elements for an international federation.

What are the main failings you see more generally in the major event-hosting marketplace?
The organiser must define the project’s objectives from the candidature phase. The objectives must be shared by the authorities, the national federation and all the key stakeholders – thereby avoiding poor communication or a lack of alignment between the organising committee and its stakeholders.

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