Roundtable: Melbourne events

Sport Business News

MEI talks to Melbourne's great and good to find out why the city ticks all the right major event boxes.

Rachael Church–Sanders posed questions to Brendan McClements (BM), chief executive of Victorian Major Events Company who is tasked with developing and implementing the business strategy for identifying, attracting, retaining and developing major events for Melbourne; Melbourne's Lord Mayor, The Right Honourable, Robert Doyle (RD); The Hon Tim Holding MP (TH), Victoria's Minister for Tourism and Major Events; and The Hon James Merlino MP (JM), Victoria's Minister for Sport, Recreation & Youth. In 2008, Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria in Australia, retained its status as the best location in the world to hold a sports event. The 2006 Commonwealth Games host came out on top once again, earning the SportBusiness Group title of 'Ultimate Sports City 2008', beating Germany's capital city Berlin into second place and Australian rival Sydney into third place. London, England took fourth place and Winter Olympics 2010 host Vancouver took fifth for Canada. What is great about Melbourne? TH: "The real point of differentiation between Melbourne and other cities is that we have got fully behind an events strategy financially. However, it's about so much more than the money–a city needs to be able to stage an event successfully and that's what Melbourne does well–everything from a public transportation system that works through to meeting accommodation needs and effective policing. We're definitely a city than can chew gum and walk at the same time due to our huge resources and expertise. Who else could run a Formula One Grand Prix at the same time as the kick off of a major football season? "RD: "We must be doing something right as we have overtaken Sydney in terms of domestic visitors. Melbourne is a city of great contrasts–from high quality shopping experiences through to bohemian areas. It is also a multicultural melting pot, encompassing 248 nationalities, 235 languages and 115 faiths. All that translates into the most wonderful cuisine in the city. "What is/are Melbourne's major events policy/main objectives? BM: "Melbourne's objective is to build a compelling world class annual calendar of major events combining recurring and one–off events that deliver powerful economic benefits to Victoria, provide national and international positioning and profile to Melbourne and Victoria to help build the brand, are well supported by Victorians to ensure they deliver community benefits and opportunities to the people of the state and are staged at an exceptionally high standard. "RD: "We don't have an Opera House or Harbour Bridge so our character has had to develop along an event–based path, involving the whole community. The result is that we now have all the infrastructure and facilities companies on hand to create the best possible events. We take great care in spacing out the events calendar to make sure they don't crowd out each other. As well as having some of the world's greatest sporting events, all the big theatre shows come here too. The city of Melbourne is aggressive in attracting these events and is always looking for ways to enhance Melbourne. "TH: "Branding Melbourne is at the heart of our strategy. Melbourne is an outward–looking brand that is built around sport and world class sport. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to attend world class events. The way we approach events is not replicated anywhere else in the world. And the quality of our relationships with federations is unprecedented. We're always on the same page with them and play it absolutely straight. We know what our brand is and we know what their [i. e. the federations'] brands are. Our approach with the latter is very much a collaborative one. "What does sport mean to Melbourne? BM: "The importance of sport to Melbourne cannot be overestimated. It is part of the cultural and social fabric of the city. The city's passion for sport has helped shape the development, geography and political agenda for the city. In the past two decades, more than A$2. 3bn has been invested in building sporting infrastructure in the heart of the city. For Melbournians, the calendar year is navigated by the timing of one sporting event to another – be it the tennis in January, the Grand Prix in March, the AFL finals in September, the Melbourne Cup in November or the Boxing Day Test in December. These are the dates that a Melbourne citizen knows better than their own wedding anniversary!If there is any doubt about the passion for sport in Melbourne, where else does a city get a public holiday to celebrate a horse race? "RD: "Melbourne is the home of sport. It's that simple. We have seen a renaissance in young people seeing sport as entertainment, which is great. We put giant screens up in Federation Square for people who cannot attend major events. It helps them feel part of the action and activate the city. "JM: " Sport is one of the things that defines Melbourne, and sports events are always multicultural affairs. That's the essence of the city. Legacy is an important part of what we do and we always aim to improve sport at a grassroots level through our events policy. Major events in themselves can be very exciting and can inspire people to be more active across all age groups. "What does Melbourne do well compared with other cities? BM: "I think Melbourne's strength is really because it has both the 'hardware' and 'software' needed to deliver successful major sports events. The city's outstanding sports event hardware of stadia, transport links both in the city and to the city, the accommodation combined with the software of the knowledge gained from staging many of the world's biggest sporting events underpinned with a fanatical devotion to all things sporting by the city delivers a location that really embraces sport and has the ability to stage and support sports events that is very difficult to match. "TH: "It's not an accident that our venues are where they are – clustered at the heart of the city and easily accessible on foot or by our linear transport system. Other cities build their venues at the edge of their cities and then worry how people are going to get there later. "JM: "Melbourne has a great track record of hosting major events successfully and we have facilities that cater for all sizes of events. The fact we have a great brand and a wealth of experience across a raft of events creates its own momentum. Our facilities are in the heart of the city, meaning spectators don't have to travel to the far reaches of our boundaries to watch an event–whether it is sport or a cultural event. Clearly that's what sets us apart from other cities. That and the fact that the city is always pumping for a few hours before and after an event. We get a lot of repeat visitors to Melbourne because we offer a friendly, cosmopolitan experience. " Who are the most important people during your events? Athletes, commercial partners, VIPs or spectators? BM: "Without doubt the athletes. Any event must start with ensuring that the athlete is given the greatest opportunity to perform at his or her best. Having this clarity of purpose is really important as it helps frame the thinking of how an event should and shouldn't take shape and what it most important when having to make the inevitable choices on what to do when. "In terms of managing an event effectively, what are the essentials? BM: "Clarity in what you are looking to achieve, making sure that you know what is most important to help prioritise the detailed plans and budgets that will need to be developed and implemented. Without know exactly what you are looking to achieve, you are leaving yourself compromised when the hard decisions will need to be made. "What have been the main legacies from hosting the 2006 Commonwealth Games? BM: "The 2006 Commonwealth Games delivered a number of great legacies. Terrific additions to an already great range of sport stadia, the redeveloped MCG, the State Netball and Hockey Centre, the Aquatic Centre – the list goes on and on. Beyond this, the knowledge and skills developed by the team who worked on the Melbourne Games has been transferred into a range of other sports and institutions in Melbourne to help them perform better. Culturally, the outstanding volunteer programme engaged thousands of people in donating their time for the community and this has moved into a number of other organisations. Finally, the Games returned a profit and this money was committed to help improve the quality of sports infrastructure for grassroots sport across Victoria. It was an unqualified success, economically, socially, for Melbourne's reputation and, perhaps most importantly, for the Commonwealth Games Association. "RD: "The Commonwealth Games were a remarkable success, partly because of the expertise we had available in this city. For us, hosting the Games was a positional thing, helping to raise the profile of Melbourne internationally. It was a large part of an existing continual in our strategy to attract major events. "JM: "I joined the government just after the Commonwealth Games so I have had the happy job of managing some of the legacies. It was a wonderful event and was under–budget meaning we were able to invest A$25m from the event's savings into grassroots sports. There was also a 'hard' legacy of course in terms of venues and redevelopments. "Are there any events that are on your wishlist? BM: "Lots!"RD: "The Olympic Games are now getting very expensive and there are many areas that need to stack up for them to be viable for a city to host. However, I wouldn't rule them out for Melbourne one day!"JM: "Obviously we are firmly behind the 2018 FIFA World Cup bid and would love to be part of that event if it comes to Australia. As a great events city, we do feel under pressure to keep being innovative. There's an expectation that as well as having all the 'expected' events, we need to offer some unusual ones too. We need a whole range of activities for the public. "Finally, are the costs of hosting an event ever worth the returns? BM: "Without a doubt. Provided these is clarity in the strategy, hosting events offers cities and their citizens great returns and benefits. "Melbourne's Annual and Ongoing Events include:ISAF Sailing World CupSkandia Geelong WeekAustralian Open Tennis Grand SlamRoxy Women's Surf FestivalOne–Day International Cricket TestUCI Women's World Cup CyclingFormula One Australian Grand PrixAustralian International AirshowRip Curl Pro Surf FestivalSuperbike World ChampionshipsAustralian Football League Grand Final WeekAustralian Football League Grand Final GameAustralian Motorcycle Grand PrixJayco Herald Sun Cycling TourSpring Racing Carnival including Melbourne CupEquitana Asia PacificBoxing Day Test Match Cricket

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