Mega events – large scale activations of sports, cultural, religious or other gatherings of people from across the globe at a single location at a set point in time – are massive drivers of Travel & Tourism (T&T) sector growth.

Major events are a powerful means of fueling growth in the key areas of T&T sector development and measurement. These include, to name but a few,:

  • Increase in Arrivals
  • Stimulation of Traveller Activity
  • Increase in Yield
  • Stimulation of Investment
  • Stimulation of Employment and Skills Development
  • Flattening of Seasonality Curves
  • Increase in Destination Competitiveness
  • Building of the Destination Brand
  • Increase in Tourism Sector Structure, Stability and Impact
  • Building of Legacy

2010 is set to be a year of exceptional Mega-events. Starting with the Winter Olympic Games in Canada in February the year will unfold in a series of major events opening up major opportunity for destinations. Other Mega-events include: the FIFA World Cup in South Africa (June & July); the Commonwealth Games in India (October); the World Exhibition in Shanghai, China (May to October).

To successfully pull off a major event can be, however, an event. An enormous investment of time, energy, commitment and spirit are required by the people of the destination over and above the massive investment of funding.

This applies particularly to the people directly involved in Mega-event preparations of infrastructure and communications to ensure the event is truly a success, in the moment and long after from a legacy perspective.

Case in point: the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP in South Africa.

Since that magic moment on May 15th, 2004 when FIFA President Sepp Blatter opened the envelope to reveal South Africa had finally been awarded Host Country status the nation has been hard at work. The 2010 Local Organising Committee under the strong leadership of Dr Danny Jordaan has worked tirelessly with FIFA, South African Government and Private sector stakeholders to ensure that the Games happen in a way which redefines success:

  • delivering a world-class FIFA World Cup with South African spirit and style,
  • shifting and uplifting global understanding and perceptions of South Africa as a leading global nation, truly alive with possibility and committed to delivery,
  • showing South Africans that, when working together, they are one team, one goal, one pride, one force for positive shared change
  • leaving a lasting legacy which all South Africans can benefit from

National airports, host city stadiums, rapid transport lines, broadcasting centers, road systems, telecomms cabling – the nation became a focused, deadline-watching construction site, aligning efforts and hopes of the people of the country and, interestingly, providing a degree of employment and investment insulation to the impact of the economic downturn of 2009.

While the Games officially begin mid-2010 with the blowing of the first whistle on June 11th, 2010, delivery of the Mega-event has already begun.

On December 04th, 2009 the FINAL DRAW took place in Cape Town (one of the official Host Cities of the 2010 Games) – the critical appetiser event to the main course of the 2010 Games where the final fixtures were determined for the Games: who plays who, where, when. As the world’s football VIPs descended on Cape Town, the world’s media set its cameras firmly in place on the city and venue to ensure that over 200 million football lovers across the world had a front seat at this critical pre-event event.

Recognising what was at stake for the Host City and South Africa in terms of exposure, expectation and expertise, the 2010 delivery community worked tirelessly to ensure delivery excellence. From Dr Jordaan and his 2010 LOC leadership team, to CT Host City government officials from the Office of the Premier to the local Tourism authorities, to ACSA (Airports Company South Africa) teams, the leadership team of the CT International Convention Centre, SAPS (South African Police Services) and other critical stakeholders… every effort and ounce of energy was applied towards ensuring this moment of truth became a positive, inspiring moment for the nation’s and continent’s history books as South Africa staged a dress rehearsal for Africa’s first ever FIFA World Cup.

Visitors from across the country and world arriving into the shiny, stylish, newly-upgraded, magnificently reopened CT International Airport experienced their first moment of Host City awe. The awe continued on first sight of the iconic, elegant CT Stadium (which officially handed over the keys to the Mayor of CT just a few days after the Final Draw marking ahead-of-schedule completion of the Host City’s pride and joy). Within the city of CT itself the feeling of pride and anticipation of all Capetonians was electric, climaxing in a 20,000+ strong street party just outside the FINAL DRAW venue. The event itself, executed with cutting-edge technology and theatrical capability within the CTICC, went without a hitch – the links held and the media world was fed with footage. For the entire week media coverage captured build-up to the FINAL DRAW. The world’s news leader, CNN, brought its sports journalism and production best to CT to set up camp and cameras to capture, through the week, around the clock, around the city and around the world, the scope of sporting and human interest stories associated with the 2010 Games and Friday’s draw.

Exceptional, endless, effectively invisible commitment all around. Because the reality is this: while the world saw FINAL DRAW red carpets and on-stage razzmatazz, these unsung heroes working behind the scenes saw little sleep, little TLC and little applause. And they did not seek to. Their efforts were focused on something so much bigger – a sense of purpose.

At the close of the FINAL DRAW, while FIFA and the world praised South Africa’s hosting of the event with great success – and without incident – these remarkable, invisible event delivery teams quietly popped champagne corks amongst themselves, enjoying a private and intimate celebration.

Still, these unsung heroes across the list of acronyms and accountabilities deserve the awareness and appreciation of the people following the event, at home and across the world.

This principle applies not just to the 2010 FINAL DRAW, but to each and every Mega-event which takes place in the 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP. And, importantly, every major event in the world.

To move on too quickly to the next To-Do would be a great shame as the spirit of the moment would be lost forever.

Tourism is an exceptional sector. It is fueled by not only strategies and sizable budgets, but also people who work beyond measure, more often than not invisibly, to ensure that their destination is showcased and celebrated as a prelude to creating a safe, stable, sustainable and strongly admired place which they can proudly call ‘home’.

These unsung heroes are all around us. We know exactly who they are and the enormous difference they continue to make. Find them, celebrate them. Do not let their moment to shine, the moment to sing their praises, the moment to pause and feel deeply why we love what we do, pass by.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2010