The legacy of hosting the Olympic Games came under the spotlight during a lively debate at the Host Cities sports summit in Dubai.
Key figures from the London and Athens Olympics were joined by a professor of economics in highlighting the lasting social, economic and sporting impact on a city hosting the world’s biggest sporting event.
It comes as talk grows of a Gulf city mounting another serious bid to host the Summer Olympics, with Dubai and Doha again at the forefront.
The opening day two panel included Dora Bakoyannis, MP, Former Mayor of Athens, Chris Foy, Head of Overseas Operations, Visit Britain, and Wolfgang Maennig, Professor of Economics at Hamburg University.
Prof Maennig began by warning that a positive legacy from hosting the game is “not automatic”.
“You must plan a strategy for the legacy of the Games as much as for the Games itself,” he said.
He said host cities often suffer a decline in visitor numbers and an increase in people leaving the country during the event. But positive factors include the creation of iconic buildings, a surge in national pride, and an improvement in the host city’s international perception.
Commenting on the impact of London 2012 on visitor numbers, Mr Foy said: “We recognised that the main tourism benefit would be in the long-term, beyond the games. We wanted people to be inspired by what they saw to visit Britain in years to come, not just during the Games.”
Ms Bakoyannis said she did not regret Athens’ successful bid in 2004, despite the country’s current economic problems.
“I would do it again,” she said. “It was such as wonderful showcase of Greece’s culture and history.”
She stressed that Athens now boasts improved transport infrastructure as well as modernised hotels, both of which can support future tourism growth.
Day two continued with an examination of how host cities can make effective use of the media and a look at how hosting major sporting events can be funded during tough economic times.
Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Emirates, warned cities bidding for major sports events that companies including Emirates can support an event, but not finance it.
“A company like us will always be a target for those seeking sponsorship,” he said. “My message to them is don’t come to us if you need financial support – come to us to use our global reach to spread a message and rally a country.
“Major sporting events should be financed by the Government hosting it. If they don’t have the money to finance the event, they shouldn’t bid for it.”
Host Cities is presented by Emirates airline under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of the Executive Council for Dubai Government and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council.
Held at Meydan, the event has welcomed leading sports administrators from golf’s European Tour, the International Cricket Council, US Tennis Association and Emirates airline - whose sport sponsorship portfolio includes FIFA World Cup, European Tour golf and international cricket.
Host Cities involves a conference featuring high-profile speakers, panel-led case study explanations, practical workshops and informal networking and learning opportunities for prospective hosts.
The event is organised by Streamline Marketing Group, specialists in launching landmark live events such as the recent Global Aerospace Summit in Abu Dhabi.