A glimpse of sport destination tourism issues and Cleveland’s All-Star Game

USA destroyed Thailand and beat Chile to kick off the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. The summer and fall are ripe with opportunities for destination sport travel, but affordability and time availability typically are major obstacles.

Among the recognizable international sports taking place around the world this summer are the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France, the PanAm Games in Peru, Wimbledon in London, and the Tour de France in …France. Plenty of world championships in 2019 are ideal for enticing sport destination tourism, especially considering the implications for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It is relatively easy to book a flight and purchase tickets to watch aquatics in Gwangju (South Korea), netball in Liverpool, basketball in China, gymnastics in Stuttgart (Germany), wrestling in Pattaya (Thailand), rowing in Linz-Ottensheim (Austria), boxing in Yekaterinburg (Russia), rugby in Japan, and athletics (track and field) in Qatar. Of course, distance and visa requirements may cross off a few locations.

A little research opens up the global travel doors to vacation during one of the many biennial or quadrennial multi-sport festivals in 2019 including the Island Games in Gibraltar, All-Africa Games in Morocco, Pacific Games in Samoa, European Games in Minsk (Belarus), the Indian Ocean Island Games in Mauritus (Africa), the Urban Games in Budapest (Hungary), the Southeast Asian Games in Clark (Philippines), the Universiade Games in Naples (Italy), and the World Beach Games in Qatar. What’s fascinating about multi-sports Games is the inclusion of regional sports. The Southeast Asian Games features Muay Thai, sepak takraw, and pencak silat; the European Games includes sambo and beach soccer; and the Pacific Games includes lawn bowling, netball, and Va’a (a traditional paddle race).

Interestingly, the World Beach Games and World Urban Games were moved from their original host sites in southern California (respectively, San Diego and Los Angeles, home of the 2028 Olympics). The Urban Games features sports such as breakdancing and BMX freestyle. The reason for the move to Europe supposedly was a better “visionary” fit. The inaugural World Beach Games were moved because of a more plausible reason — the local organizing committee could not secure the necessary funding. The operating cost for the World Beach Games was estimated at $39 million which is a bargain considering the original price tag of $135 million before the number of sports and competitors were slashed. Within days of San Diego being stripped of their hosting rights, Qatar, one of the oil rich nations with an affinity to sports (e.g., host of FIFA’s 2022 World Cup), stepped in with guaranteed government-backed financial support. The USA doesn’t operate in the same way as countries governed by sheiks and royal monarchists who can flash around billions of dollars almost seemingly at whim. The USA doesn’t rank the same on the global corruption index and doesn’t experience the same level of suppressed freedoms as most residents of countries in the middle east.

Bidding for a world championship or multi-sport Games, especially associated with the Olympics, requires insurmountable financial backing and guarantees from the original rights holder which may be an international sport federation or a continental association. The question of economic prosperity for the host through tourism, local employment opportunities, and tax incentives is controversial given the enormous financial outlay for infrastructure, hospitality, security, and manpower. For San Diego and Los Angeles, and even for Boston, which experienced a public referendum to withdraw as a candidature city for the 2024 Olympics, the financial stress in serving as a host of a mega-sporting event is a considerable decision involving public and private entities. Obviously, LA2028 will take place with the support of the IOC, however, caution has secured the fate for two other multi-sport festivals this summer to ensure the California cities don’t experience unnecessary financial burden.

One of the attractions of sport destination travel for a world championship or multi-sport festival is the cultural experiences which are typically part of on-location, interactive fan experiences. Whether its local vendors offering samples of regional cuisine or the opportunity to participate in an auxiliary 5K road race, the fun engagement piece carefully orchestrated by organizers provides excitement and entertainment to supplement the main event. Major sporting events are accustomed to drawing spectators by offering a plethora of activities to engage a diverse audience in addition to the main event. It is the reason why Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers has a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round in its concourse and why EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has a swimming pool in the stands.

In a few weeks, Cleveland will become a destination sport location during the 2019 MLB All-Star Game, promoted as “the Biggest Party of the Summer.” It won’t cost an arm and a leg for someone from Tiffin to participate in an on-location interactive fan experience that rivals auxiliary events staged in conjunction with an international multi-sport festival. Playball Park, the largest indoor-outdoor interactive baseball theme park in the world with more than 40 attractions will be staged inside and outside of Cleveland’ Huntington Convention Center July 5-9. There will be plenty of free activities outdoors from batting cages and live entertainment to drills with rising professionals, hall of famers, and Olympians. A $25 ticket (only $10 on Saturday) for indoor activities will allow fans to participate in a virtual reality home run derby, view Hall of Fame displays, and collect autographs from some of MLB’s greatest players in history. Playball Park includes a concert stage, a zipline, and food trucks. Downloading an “Experience Pass” permits fans to avoid long queue lines for autographs and receive free prizes. On Monday, Tiffin University’s Dr. Bonnie Tiell will participate in the Women’s Dugout hosted by Teamworkonline, an online recruiting service for sport jobs.

A group of business and educational professionals in Tiffin staged a pretty cool event last October featuring 22 Olympians, a Paralympian, and a few Olympic coaches during elite sport and culture week which involved hundreds of youth engaging in cultural and educational programs. The Festival of Champions in Tiffin University’s Heminger Center bore a resemblance to the interactive fan experience ready to entertain the masses in Cleveland during next month’s MLB All Star Game. These local family-friendly sport-themed events demonstrate that it doesn’t always take a trip around the world to get an up-close view of some of sport’s greatest legends and leaders.

Stay tuned for next month’s column featuring more interesting sport stories from around the world, around the nation, around the state, and right here in Tiffin.