For those that don’t know, Sierra Leone is the poorest country one earth. I’ll come clean and say that they won’t be bidding, but I wanted to make a point about the growing trend of smaller nations bidding to host global sports events.
Today I was participating in the Global Sports Infrastructure Conference in London organised by UK Trade & Investment and one presentation that grabbed by attention was George Goodwin Jr, the CEO of World Cup Antigua talking about the cricket world cup they will be hosting in 2007. In fact, nine sovereign countries in the West Indies, including St Kitts with a population of just 39,000, will be looking after the world’s media…and cricketers. So what’s the cost to these small countries? Well its going to cost Antigua alone $75 million and collectively in the order of $250 million across the nine countries. To put that into context, Antigua will be committing in the region of 51% of its total annual country expenditure on the event. China (a trading partner) has stepped forward and is providing a $28 million grant to part-finance a new 9,400-seat stadium, but that’s a one-off deal and just for Antigua. So what’s the return? Well George was talking about `developmental` and `long term` benefits, some of which you `can’t count the cash on`. Yes, there’s going to be a tourism impact, some new facilities and a sense of national pride, but $250 million dollars can fund an awful lot of new schools, equipment and roads.
So the nagging question I’m left with is, should smaller, less affluent nations be bidding for global sports events? Now that topic would make a great dissertation.