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Adelaide adopts holistic approach to maximise sporting opportunities

A general view as the sun sets during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan at Adelaide Oval on February 15, 2015 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

  • 29 per cent of visitors to 2015 Men’s Cricket World Cup came from overseas
  • City aggressively targeted Indian cricket community
  • Study argued 2026 Commonwealth Games bid would be too expensive

In the ultra-competitive sporting landscape of Australia, the lengths to which Adelaide leveraged a 2015 Cricket World Cup match demonstrate how the city aims to ensure the impact of such events extends well beyond sport.

The Adelaide Oval, one of the country’s most iconic sports facilities, hosted four matches during the 2015 tournament, including Bangladesh v England, Ireland v Pakistan and Pakistan v Australia. But it was the India v Pakistan clash that anchored the city’s outreach effort, especially as Adelaide served as the training base for the Indian team ahead of the event.

Indian fans in the crowd celebrate as a Pakistan wicket falls during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between India and Pakistan at Adelaide Oval on February 15, 2015 in Adelaide, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

“We strategically targeted India and created a legacy strategy around hosting the team in Adelaide and securing the India v Pakistan blockbuster,” says Hitaf Rasheed, executive director at Events South Australia, the events arm of the South Australian Tourism Commission.

“This strategy included a business forum where we hosted business representatives from India to explore trade and investment opportunities and followed up with a return trade mission to India.

“In our desire to engage with the younger cricket-loving community in India, we ran a competition hosted in India which saw 15 young cricketers win the opportunity to travel to Adelaide for a once-in-a lifetime cricketing and cultural experience. In addition to this, we hosted media families and leveraged the broadcast assets to promote Adelaide as a tourism destination.”

According to PwC’s report on the economic impact of the tournament, the India v Pakistan contest was, at the time, the most talked-about cricket match in digital media history. In addition, an impressively high 29 per cent of all attendees in Adelaide came from overseas with the sole purpose of attending the Cricket World Cup. Average spend per unique visitor in South Australia was A$870 (£475/€523/$608), with total visitor spend standing at A$80m.

On a recent list compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit, Adelaide was ranked as the 10th most liveable city in the world, and its lifestyle credentials, which have attracted a sharp increase in visitors in recent years – including a 12.5 per cent year-on-year rise through to March 2020 – are at the forefront of its sports destination strategy.

Often referred to as the 20-minute city, the iconic Adelaide Oval and the hustle and bustle of the city centre are 11km from the coast and the sprawling beaches that make it so desirable for locals and tourists alike.

However, Events South Australia’s innovative approach to India’s stay during the Cricket World Cup illustrated a broader need to think outside the box.

“A key challenge felt Australia-wide is that we are a long-haul destination for many international travellers, and it may be a logistical challenge to get to the country,” Rasheed explains. “Strategies to simplify the journey and the decision-making process, including working with trade and airline partners and utilising our high performing SouthAustralia.com platform, help address this challenge.”

And Adelaide has overcome the logistical hurdles to establish a wide-ranging event portfolio.

Casual observers will be familiar with the city’s status as a cricket and Aussie rules destination, but its location also lends itself to mass-participation events such as cycling’s Tour Down Under.

From 1985 to 1995, the Adelaide Street Circuit hosted Formula One’s Australian Grand Prix before the event moved east to Melbourne. The circuit continues to host the Adelaide 500 event and is now complemented by The Bend, which opened in 2018 and hosts Supercars races, Asian Le Mans and more.

An impressive venue portfolio also includes the South Australian Aquatic and Leisure Centre, which has hosted Australia’s Olympic swimming trials, as well as the 11,300-seat Adelaide Entertainment Centre, the 8,000-capacity Adelaide Arena and the 16,500-seat Coopers Stadium, home of A-League football club Adelaide United.

“Adelaide is a compact city of around 1.3 million, which is well credentialled – both in expertise and facilities – to host major events,” says Rasheed. “Adelaide is large enough to host world-class events but still small enough so that those events can ‘take over’ our city, and they do. Adelaide doesn’t put on a bike race, car race or football match – its key attributes ensure events are delivered with a true festival atmosphere.”

Shane van Gisbergen drives the #97 Red Bull Holden Racing Team Holden Commodore ZB and Scott McLaughlin drives the #17 Shell V-Power Racing Team Ford Mustang compete at the start of race 2 for the Adelaide 500 Supercars Championship Round at Adelaide Parklands Circuit on March 3, 2019 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Targeted approach

The Tour Down Under is one of Adelaide’s most lucrative events, having gone from strength to strength since launching in 1999. It serves as the season-opening event on the men’s UCI World Tour, with a women’s race having been held in parallel since 2016.

In 2019, the Tour Down Under generated a record economic impact of A$70.7m – an 11-per-cent increase on the 2018 edition. A total of 48,000 event-specific visitors from overseas and interstate travelled to South Australia for the event, which attracted 805,000 spectators in total.

The Tour proved just as popular in 2020 and Rasheed credits the success of the race to Events South Australia’s marketing strategies.

“The Santos Tour Down Under’s creative campaign – which in 2020 saw more than 44,000 people travel to South Australia, injecting more than A$66m into the visitor economy – champions strong emotive imagery to draw in our key market,” Rasheed says.

“The reason why people travel for live sport is to feel the emotion from world-class athletes and be a part of the atmosphere, which is what we highlight through photography and vision.”

Other international events held in Adelaide include golf’s ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Championship and the Adelaide International ATP and WTA tennis tournament, which forms part of the pre-Australian Open swing and was this year won by home favourite Ashleigh Barty.

Adelaide is perhaps best known, though, as an Aussie rules city. It boasts two AFL teams in the shape of the Crows and Port Adelaide FC, both of which play at the 55,000-seat Adelaide Oval. The Adelaide Oval also serves as the home of the Adelaide Strikers Big Bash League Twenty20 cricket franchise and has built a reputation as a major destination for Test and one-day internationals, having regularly hosted Ashes clashes between Australia and England, as well as an inaugural day-night Test in 2015.

Essendon players run onto the field during the round 8 AFL match between the Adelaide Crows and the Essendon Bombers at the Adelaide Oval on July 26, 2020 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Fresh opportunities

The impact of Covid-19 has been minimal in South Australia, where there have been only four confirmed deaths from the virus.

With showpiece events such as the Tour Down Under and Adelaide International taking place in the winter months, the number of competitions that have been cancelled outright is comparatively low. The Adelaide Oval is free to stage AFL matches at 50-per-cent capacity and, as Rasheed says, the city is “pretty much Covid-free”, with members of the public also back playing sport.

One event that has been postponed is the NRL’s State of Origin match at Adelaide Oval. The city’s leg of the rugby league showpiece had been scheduled for the middle of the year, but will now be held in November. It will be the first time that South Australia has hosted the event.

It is expected that the game will deliver an A$15m boost to the local economy, with 20,000 interstate visitors set to descend on Adelaide. The city was awarded the rights in February 2018 after the South Australia government provided an additional A$70m in tourism funding to market the state at home and overseas.

“I think for South Australia, which is traditionally not an NRL state, to have the State of Origin is a great opportunity,” says Rasheed. “One of the things we pride ourselves on is that we don’t just put on an event, we put on a festival. The city allows for that – it will take over the city and attract new people to South Australia.”

Another event South Australians have to look forward to is the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup. It was announced on June 25 that Australia and New Zealand would co-host the national team tournament, and Coopers Stadium will be one of 13 host venues.

The federal government has promised that the event will deliver “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the economy and boost women’s football participation by more than 150,000 over seven years.

From the outside looking in, Adelaide appears well set to host a major multi-sports event at some point in the near future. The South Australian Government explored such an opportunity last year.

In March 2019, a feasibility study was launched for an Adelaide-led bid for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, but the government opted to drop the proposal in September after an independent analysis of staging the event put the total cost at around A$3.5bn, with the economic benefit only projected at about A$1.2bn.

Although the bid did not come to fruition, Rasheed believes that the lessons learnt will serve South Australia well for future plans. “It was great to go through the process and understand the Commonwealth Games Federation’s assessment of Adelaide as a suitable host city and a fantastic venue,” she says.

Corey Wingard, South Australia’s Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing, said: “Although we won’t be bidding for 2026, we have embarked on the State Sporting Infrastructure Plan, which will provide the path forward to ensuring we have the best facilities to attract big events to the state in the future.

“Unfortunately, the cost to the taxpayer was too high to bring the Games to South Australia by 2026, but we remain open to potential bids in 2030 and 2034 as key initiatives from the State Sporting Infrastructure Plan are rolled out.”

The State Sporting Infrastructure Plan, supported by dozens of consultation sessions and public surveys, will tally with a 20-year State Infrastructure Strategy with the goal of equipping the city for the next generation of sports stars.Whether it is planning for the development of new sporting facilities that can benefit communities, as well as elite athletes, or bidding to bring new types of events to Adelaide, there remains plenty more to come from the capital of South Australia.

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