London means business when hosting big-time sporting events (column)
London Community News
This is a continuation of last week’s column on sports tourism.
In 2006, when London Hunt and Country Club hosted the LPGA Tour’s CN Canadian Women’s Open, Golf Canada called London “a major league town.” Ontario Tourism once dubbed our city “the capital of Canada for sporting events.”
We may not have a CFL nor NHL team, but without a doubt London is a big-league player in the sports tourism game. The city recognizes this in its 2012-2016 Business Plan Summary, which includes an important Tourism and Sports Attraction and Services section.
“Hosting major sporting events in a community contributes significantly to economic and sport development, raises community profile, heightens community spirit, engages the community and utilizes community infrastructure. Hosting also increases social and health benefits and puts sport and active living at the centre of civic activity,” states the business plan, which forecasts the overall economic impact of tourism spending in London at $515 million in 2013 — much of that stemming from hosting sporting events.
When the 2013 ISU World Figure Skating Championships brings the best 200 skaters in the world from 50 countries to Budweiser Gardens March 11-17, London will enjoy a global spotlight that perhaps it has never seen before. And while 150 million television viewers watch axel jumps and camel spins from the comfort of their living rooms, London coffers will see a projected $28 million in economic spinoffs.
“We are privileged and honoured to have been chosen by Skate Canada to host the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2013” said John Winston, general manager, Tourism London. “This validates our city’s ability to compete successfully on the world stage. We know the intense international media exposure and significant economic impact generated by this event will enhance community pride and showcase London as a premier travel destination.”
A long-time supporter of local sports events, 3M Canada is the presenting partner of the volunteer program at the skating championships. 3M Canada President Paul Madden said, “At 3M Canada, supporting community volunteers is simply part of our company’s culture.” Skate Canada Director Business Development Debbi Wilkes added, “(3M’s) reputation for supporting volunteers in London and across the country is renowned. We know our 450-plus volunteers will benefit from their support to stage a truly amazing world championships.”
This may all sound like sunshine being tossed up our nose, but take it from someone who has shadowed some of this city’s biggest sports tourism movers and shakers leading up to the 2001 Canada Summer Games: London means business when it comes to playing host to big-time sporting events.
Prior to those 2001 Games, Business London Magazine assigned me to take in every meeting, news conference and community event leading up to the big event. For months I shadowed big corporations, fundraisers and city officials, and I saw first-hand why sports tourism in London is alive and well — and apparently not slowing down anytime soon.
On a smaller scale, the 2012 U19 World Ringette Championship comes to London Dec. 28 to Jan. 3. Western Fair Sports Centre will host the championship, which includes an international ringette festival, 50 participating club teams from across the globe and 200 volunteers.
“This event will be the first of many events that will help celebrate the 50th anniversary of ringette’s founding in 1963 and it will be a great opportunity for today’s up and coming ringette athletes to compete at the world level,” said Kevin Knight, co-chair of the London bid committee.
“Tourism London is thrilled to be hosting an event of this magnitude as it goes to validate London’s ability to host major events,” said Cheryl Finn, Director, Sports Tourism, Tourism London. “It is sure to generate civic pride, volunteerism as well as significant economic impact.”
London is not about to acquire a CFL or NHL team anytime soon, although there’s still talk we may host the Hamilton Tiger Cats during the 2013 CFL season as their new stadium is under construction. We may live in the shadows of Toronto and Detroit when it comes to big-league sports. But don’t for a minute think that London is small-town in terms of hosting significant sporting events.
Golf Canada was right: indeed, London is “a major league town.”
Jeffrey Reed is an award-winning journalist, and has been a member of the local sports media since 1980. Write to him at email@example.com.