At the height of the pandemic, the Australian state of Queensland cemented a worldwide reputation in the sports business as a proactive host that would go to all possible lengths to ensure events could take place.
Domestically, the Australian Football League, National Rugby League, Women’s National Basketball League and Super Netball were among the leagues to benefit from the state’s flexible approach, which prioritised the protection of participants and established ‘bubbles’, where needed, to ensure Covid-19 measures were respected.
Now, though, Queensland is open again for global business.
In February this year, the government announced a A$100m (£57m/€68m/$75m) investment, matched by the state’s largest four airports, to secure flights and rebuild Queensland’s A$6bn international tourism industry. The following month, further Covid-19 restrictions were eased – and now the pipeline of future international events in the state looks healthier than ever.
In October, Brisbane will stage the Nitro World Games action sports showpiece, as well as contests during the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup. The FIFA Women’s World Cup will return to the city next year.
The Gold Coast will stage the 2023 World Bowls Championships and the 2024 Lifesaving World Championships, before the International Cycling Union (UCI) BMX World Championships take place in Brisbane in 2026.
This steady flow of sporting events in Queensland, which pre-dates the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, will continue to sharpen hosting capabilities in the build up to the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Brisbane.
For the likes of Thrill One Sports & Entertainment, which operates the Nitro World Games, it is reassuring to collaborate with experienced partners such as Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ) to deliver an event that will attract visitors from across Australia, Asia and the world.
The two organisations have worked together to facilitate a smooth transition for an event that was originally slated to take place last year.
“Suncorp Stadium is wonderful and Brisbane is a great city,” says Steve Ziff, Thrill One’s chief marketing and communications officer. “We have had fantastic meetings and planning sessions with TEQ and local authorities, and we have had constant conversations.
“Action sports have a rich history in Australia and a sizeable number of athletes at the Games will be from Australia. Queensland is a beautiful destination and it makes perfect sense for us to be there. The Games could not have a better home.”
Queensland’s renowned sporting infrastructure and its appeal as a tourist destination are only part of the attraction for international event operators, though.
The Nitro World Games’ organisers have been taken aback by the appetite of Queenslanders for the event, with more than 75 per cent of the original ticketholders for the event having opted against a refund. This has provided a solid foundation upon which further ticket sales will build over the coming months, thanks to activations, advertising campaigns and an ongoing tour by Thrill One’s Nitro Circus extravaganza across Australia.
Indeed, when it comes to marketing the event to audiences outside Queensland, Thrill One is keen to amplify the state’s appeal as a tourist destination. Thrill One’s upcoming campaign, ‘Navigate Brisbane’, will feature action sports skills in spectacular Queensland settings – and the promotional assets will be shared with TEQ so they can be repurposed for the state’s own purposes in the future.
“We want to highlight the destination,” Ziff says. “Brisbane is a young, vibrant city and our events typically attract diverse crowds. We want to be a cultural and lifestyle event as much as an action sports event, and Brisbane reflects that.”
One of Queensland’s qualities is that it gives each visiting sports rights-holder the confidence that their event is the most important on the calendar.
For example, according to a Bowls Australia representative looking forward to the sport’s marquee event next year, “Queensland, and the Gold Coast in particular, has long been established as a heartland for bowls”.
Aside from “clubs with unparalleled facilities, a climate conducive to year-round competition and an audience entrenched in enjoying both social bowls and more competitive formats”, Queensland is Australia’s premier holiday destination and “the ultimate combination of sun, surf and sand”.
The representative adds: “TEQ and Major Events Gold Coast are two crucial and engaged stakeholders in the delivery of the 2023 World Bowls Championships across three or more Gold Coast clubs. Both bodies have been tremendous supporters of bowls in Australia and have recognised its value within the sporting landscape and the value it brings to the economy of the city.”
The collaborative approach from TEQ and Queensland’s other authorities is commonly recognised by international event rights-holders.
Just days ago, World Triathlon announced that the north-eastern city of Townsville will host its 2024 Multisport World Championships through a partnership between TEQ, Ironman, Triathlon Australia, Townsville City Council and Townsville Enterprise.
According to Geoff Meyer, managing director of the Ironman Group Oceania, TEQ will work closely with event organisers across a range of areas, including marketing, tourism and on-site activations, hospitality and other promotional opportunities.
In a city with a population of about 180,000, more than 1,200 people are expected to join the volunteer programme, providing further evidence of a state-wide passion for major events.
Furthermore, like other cities across Queensland, Townsville’s set-up is ideal for welcoming thousands of elite athletes from far afield for 10 days of competition.
“Operationally, the location of this event sets it up for success,” Meyer says. “The majority of infrastructure is already in place, there are great training and recovery facilities for athletes, a range of accommodation offerings, and the availability of a local workforce as well as volunteers.
“Queensland has a great track record of delivering large-scale, high-profile events and we expect that to continue with the successful running of this event in 2024.”
Like many international rights-holders, World Triathlon is heading back to Queensland on the back of a successful track record in the state – including its 2018 Grand Final on the Gold Coast.
This trend, which brings global sports event-organisers, athletes and spectators back to Queensland again and again is recognised by new, as well as established, events on the calendar.
“We look at this as a long-term investment, and not a one-off,” Ziff adds ahead of the Nitro World Games. “We hope to deliver a very successful event and then identify new opportunities to come back to Queensland with other events. We see this state as one of the new modern leaders in the sporting world, and we are aligned with that vision.”