I was among the millions who watched in awe as the athletes competed at the inaugural Invictus games in London this month and it was music to my ears to hear Prince Harry announce that next year, he would not only like to keep the Games in the UK but to bring them North.
Newcastle and the North East would be only too keen to welcome the Games to the city and we’d be ideal hosts.
We have a strong reputation for hosting largescale international events and for doing it well.
Take the Olympics in 2012 when international football was held at St James’ Park, there was a tremendous carnival atmosphere across the city with supporter zones and large screens encouraging people to back the games.
As a city we are growing in confidence and in stature when it comes to hosting big events, and we have no shortage of experience. We have gained an unrivalled international reputation for the success of events including the Great North Run which this year celebrated its millionth runner with all the pomp and ceremony of an opening celebrations befitting a Commonwealth, or Olympic Games.
Next year, we are nailing our colours to the rugby mast. St James’ Park will be the hub of the rugby action – with both the Magic Weekend 2015, a celebration of Rugby League, followed three games in the Rugby World Cup 2015. Both events will offer a fantastic spectacle even for those for whom rugby is not their first love and will turn the spotlight on Newcastle and the wider North East.
NE1 has worked long and hard with Newcastle City Council and the Rugby Football League to secure the Magic Weekend for the city and we can’t wait to enjoy the activities both on and off the pitch.
Even if you are not a lover of the game, you would be hard pressed to avoid the excitement that the Games will generate, or feel the benefit of the city’s staging the event. For Magic Weekend, audience figures usually top 65,000 and conservative estimates put the value of the games for the local economy in excess of three million pounds.
We’re very fortunate in Newcastle to be one of the few remaining UK cities to have its football stadium in the heart of the city and the value this brings to the local economy and wider community should never be underestimated. On match days, the club regularly attracts over 50,000 supporters into the heart of Newcastle, encouraging other sporting and entertainment events into the city and into St James’ Park will deliver a major boost to the local economy as well as putting Newcastle on the world wide map.
There is a growing consciousness that high profile sporting events can have a wider and more lasting impact on the host city, its community and its environment than just the economic boost it delivers, or the profile it raises.
There is a view that the legacy can also be felt and go a long way to influencing social behaviour and even health.
By bringing more events to Newcastle, we would look to capitalise on these opportunities and to encourage a lasting legacy that makes a positive impact across a number of different sectors from business, the economy to health and social wellbeing.
None of these events is just about the sporting glory on the pitch, track, or field – it’s about making sure that the people of Newcastle feel the benefit in business, retail and leisure developments in the city after the games.
Hosting any major event, whether it is the Invictus Games, or the Magic Weekend, is all about putting on a good show, bringing hundreds of thousands of new visitors to Newcastle and the wider North East region and making them feel welcome and showing them a good time.
We are extremely proud of the city and I have no doubt that we would deliver a spectacular welcome to competitors and spectators and that in turn our city and community will benefit.
- Sean Bullick is chief executive of NE1 Ltd.