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Major Events - The right choice for your city?


Globalization has created a new competitive playing field for cities. Irrespective of their size and geographic location, urban centers across the world are competing for corporate investments, creative minds, high-tech industry and tourist revenue. A new study by Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and Siemens examines how bidding and hosting for different types of major events can boost a city's draw, as part of existing strategies to enhance its global profile and positioning.

In the study entitled "Major Events – The right choice for your city?", the authors examine different approaches to urban development, including the cluster strategy, which focuses on bundling the strengths of industry and institutions to enhance productivity and the creative class approach, which highlights the importance of attracting the most creative minds to an urban space to create the setting for innovation and growth. It also highlights the impact of regional branding approaches, where neighboring cities co-develop a strategy based on individual strengths and shared needs, to drive research cooperation and attract business.

Bidding and successfully hosting a major event can support any of these frameworks, the study argues. For many years, cities have used the magnetic power of global sporting competitions, including the Olympic Games or business conferences, such as the World Economic Forum. Positive effects of organizing large-scale happenings can be a sustainable increase in the GDP of a city, improved infrastructure and investments and long-term job creation.

"If a city gets it right, then a major event can be a catalyst for a bright future. Barcelona is a case in point. The city embedded the 1992 Olympic Games into a long-term strategy to attract tourism. From 1990 to 2005, the city boosted its visitor numbers by 3.3m," says Tim Zimmermann, Partner with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and one of the authors of the study. Barcelona was able to create sustainable growth.

However, choosing the right size and scope – the right overall match – for a city can be difficult. "Both size and type of event can be crucial factors in a decision phase," Zimmermann says. He cautions against reaching too high or aiming too low. "Honesty has to be the starting point of any reflection on an event bid," he notes. "Knowing where a city's strengths and weaknesses are is instrumental to a fact-based assessment of potential success."

The study differentiates between 'Mega Events', including hosting the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup, and 'Special Events' – large, one-off attractions such as an annual Formula One race in a particular location. 'Hallmark Events' such as the Notting Hill carnival, which are unique to a specific location, can see locals and visitors returning time and time again, creating a large scale income impact. The annual 'Carnival of Cultures' – its official title – brings in revenues of GBP 93m and incurs expenses of between GBP 6 and 10m. 'Community Events', though sometimes smaller in scale, can have a similarly positive effect and stimulate a local economy.

"Fail to prepare and prepare to fail"

Pooling their expertise, the experts from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants and Siemens developed a list of ten points for city officials to consider before embarking on an often costly bidding or planning phase. The study offers detailed insights and best practice examples on each point to assist officials in weighing different options for their urban context to help achieve the overarching goals of a city development plan:

  1. Be honest! Only go for a major event if careful evaluation of your initial situation and the event’s requirements recommend a bid.
  2. Don’t expect massive economic growth! Economic indicators may rise, but usually insignificantly so.
  3. Be strategic! Sustainable benefits will only come about if you embed a major event in your long-term city strategy.
  4. Plan and control! The huge complexity of an event can only be managed with careful coordination.
  5. Integrate your stakeholders! Diverse interests have to be taken into account at the earliest possible point to ensure support.
  6. Win your people! Only enthusiastic citizens make an event complete.
  7. Use the emotional power of the event! Stimulate behavioral change in favor of your city.
  8. Market your assets! Tourism will only be boosted in a sustainable way when marketed proactively.
  9. Minimize negative effects! Negative effects of events can be compensated and turned into opportunities if taken seriously.
  10. Plan for Innovation! Technology has a lasting effect on your city’s future.


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