Quantifying and boosting the success and legacy of mega events

As they prepare to speak at the Telegraph Business of Sport Conference on Wednesday, two panelists, Populous Senior Principal Christopher Lee, and Simon Clegg CBE, Chief Operating Officer of the Baku 2015 European Games, tell us what they are particularly looking forward to, and give us an introduction to the factors that go into creating successful, memorable and sustainable mega events.

The Telegraph Business of Sport Conference promises to be a fascinating two days of discussion and debate, bringing some of the most influential people in the sporting and events world to London, and drawing expertise from fields including international rugby, sports broadcasting, global sponsorship, motor sport and international football, among many others. Of course, London has a lot to shout about in terms of event legacy.

If you look over the horizon of recent global sporting events, the London 2012 Olympic Games stands as one of the most successful of recent times, both in terms of the effect that it has had on sporting engagement, and the sheer weight of numbers involved in its planning and execution: 26 Olympic sports and 21 Paralympic sports across 29 venues in 27 days, plus all the athletes, spectators, TV viewers, media and volunteers. It’s a massive collaborative operation, with Populous overseeing the overlay design for 150 temporary venues during the London 2012 Games.

“It will be a very interesting discussion at the Business of Sport conference”, says Christopher. “With so much experience from different sporting angles and approaches, I’m really looking forward to hearing how my fellow panelists look at mega events, and learning more about best practice in their respective fields.”

Christopher continues, “London 2012 was undoubtedly one of the greatest Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, its legacy was not just in reshaping a large part of London – creating a 500-acre Royal Park, new homes and community facilities – but also reshaping the future design of major international sporting events. London 2012 showed that major global events do not necessarily require large numbers of permanent facilities, but demonstrated that small, lightweight and temporary designs could be utilised to put on an incredible event and be adapted or removed afterwards to allow for a lasting legacy.

“This also allowed for temporary venues to make use of historic London landmarks as backdrops to the sporting events, such as Beach Volleyball at Horse Guard’s Parade and eventing in Greenwich Park. Our design strategy played a role in influencing the supply market to modify and improve their standard systems, which will affect the way that future events are planned. You can see that legacy very clearly in Baku.”

The inaugural Baku 2015 European Games have seen an impressive amount of infrastructure introduced in just 30 months, since the European Olympic Committees awarded them the staging rights. The last continent to have its own Games, Baku 2015 will attract 6,000 athletes, participating in 20 sports. Formerly the Chief Executive of the British Olympic Association and Ipswich Town Football Club, Simon Clegg is the Chief Operating Officer of the Baku Organising Committee.

He says, “As with any major event, it’s all about the people. Where they are coming from, who they’re coming with, what they’re coming to see, and when they’re going to do it. The amount of development that Baku has seen in a relatively short amount of time is very exciting for the region and demonstrates just one dimension of what mega events can deliver. However, legacy must extend beyond physical infrastructure if Games are going to have a long-term benefit for the host nation on both a political and social level.

“Of course, to ensure commercial, broadcasting and sporting success, you need to attract the right athletes, and it has been great to see the response from across Europe, with 12 of the 16 Olympic sports offering direct or indirect qualification opportunities for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio. These European Games are a great opportunity to demonstrate how sport can act as a catalyst for change as well as showcasing a young and dynamic country. I think people are going to see something really special in Baku this summer, which will considerably exceed most people’s expectations for an inaugural event.”

Populous are currently working on three overlay projects for the Baku 2015 European Games: the National Gymnastics Arena, the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) and the Athlete’s Village.

The Telegraph Business of Sport Conference begins on Wednesday 13th May.

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