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Volume 6 No. 194

Events and Attractions

A leading Commonwealth Games official said that Games "could be cut from 17 to 10 sports to keep the event alive beyond 2018," according to Chris McLaughlin of the BBC. Commonwealth Games Federation CEO Mike Hooper said that "reducing the number of sports could encourage interest." He said, "We recognize the tough economic times but we have flexibility. If someone wanted to predicate a bid on a theme of 'bring it back to basics,' then they could do so." Ten sports "is the minimum allowed by the Commonwealth Games Federation, with 17 the maximum." Bids to host the '22 showpiece "must be received by March 2015 but official notes of interest must be in by the end of March this year" (BBC, 2/3).

Sydney's new A$18M ($16M) The Championships at Randwick in April "will form an important leg of a proposed world series of horse racing," according to Ray Thomas of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. With momentum to introduce the series as early as next year, "the world's best gallopers would compete in the most prestigious races" in countries such as England, France, Singapore, UAE, the U.S., Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. Qatar's Sheik Fahad Al Thani, owner of 2011 Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden, "is one of many influential identities in favour of an annual ­series of races to determine the world's best thoroughbred." Australian Racing Board Chair John Messara "is preparing to raise the issue at the next meeting of international horse racing authorities this year." Messara: "I am certainly willing to float it. This concept is something we should work on" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 2/3).

Coinciding with the final stage of the 2014 Tour de France, the elite of women's cycling will come together on July 27 for the first edition of La Course by Le Tour de France. A few hours before the men's peloton arrives in Paris, the world's elite women cyclists will race the circuit in the historic heart of the city before fighting out a final sprint at the finish line on the Champs-Elysées (Le Tour). REUTERS reported some top women riders, including triple world road champion Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, "have already committed to the race that will lead them down the glamorous avenue where men have ended their three-week race for almost 40 years." Vos: "I am very excited to be taking part, especially with the majestic finish on the Champs Elysées." Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) President Brian Cookson praised the initiative as a "tremendous step forward" (REUTERS, 2/1). In London, William Fotheringham wrote it will be the first time since '89 "that women cyclists have raced alongside their male counterparts at cycling's most prestigious finish." Tour de France Organizer Christian Prudhomme said, "Back in the autumn a delegation of champion women cyclists came to see us and requested that we create something that would give their sport a real push forward, and that is what will happen on 27 July. The race will be transmitted live on France Television and Eurosport and I would imagine that most of the other Tour rights holders will be interested by it" (GUARDIAN, 2/1). VELO NATION's Shane Stokes wrote Kathryn Bertine, co-founder of women's cycling organization Le Tour Entier, described the announcement "as being an important intermediate step towards a Tour de France race for women." Bertine said, "We see this as a stepping stone toward a women's Tour. This race is a perfect launching pad to build upon in the years to come [as regards a multi-day womens’s Tour de France]. It’s important because female athletes need high profile stages on which to compete, with the associated media coverage and sponsorship, to truly enable them to shine" (VELO NATION, 2/2).

Due to "Spain's economic crisis," the coastal city of Tarragona, the host of the 2017 Mediterranean Games, will "reduce the scale of the project of hosting the event to ensure its survival," according to Jesús Mínguez of AS. The event's initial projected budget of €150M has been reduced to €90M ($122M). Tarragona Mayor Josep Fèlix Ballesteros said, "We are advancing at a good rate in difficult circumstances, as we are seeking austerity and sustainability without losing sight of fulfilling what is needed for a sporting event" (AS, 2/3). In Madrid, Sara Massa reported "with a mentality of maximum savings with renovation favored over construction," the Tarragona Games will "use public and private collaboration from the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE), Spain's Superior Sports Council (CSD), the Barcelona government and other institutions." Ballesteros said, "We did not want to have a legacy that would create a burden for the city. So, for example, the Olympic Village will instead be a hotel in Salou. We are not going to build anything that becomes obsolete later" (EL CONFIDENCIAL, 2/3).

NFL China’s official viewing party of Super Bowl XLVIII in Beijing and Shanghai had a definite American feel, except for the 7:30am start. The event featured not only the Seahawks' win, but also the commercials and halftime show live from Fox Sports, as well as free-flowing Budweiser, a supporting sponsor of the event. Kerry Hotel, the official host sponsor, seated more than 400 fans in Beijing and 500 in Shanghai. In Beijing, about 85% of the attendees were expatriates enjoying their day off of work for the Chinese New Year. One fan said, “I work with a bunch of Americans, so usually on Super Bowl Monday we’re all sneaking off to ‘meetings,’ so it’s nice to just relax and not feel guilty.” Another fan said, “It was great of them to do this for the community. I could’ve watched it at home online, but it’s not the same.” Most expatriate fans heard about the event on The Beijinger, a local magazine geared specifically to the expatriate community. However, Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, seemed to be the popular channel for Chinese fans to learn of the event, with fans reminding each other to wake up on time for the early morning start. One Chinese fan said, “I love all American sports, and this was the best way to get the full experience.” NFL China’s Weibo account has just more than 340,000 followers, up more than 50,000 since the Home Field initiative, a series of flag-football games and game-day experiences at universities in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, which began in September. Fans in Beijing who did have complaints were those who attended last year, saying that in '13 the event hosted tailgate games, NFL cheerleaders and NFL players, such as Super Bowl XLIV winner Reggie Bush, none of which were part of 2014’s celebrations.

AN OFF-FIELD WIN: Kerry Hotel is in its second year of sponsorship of NFL China. Kerry Hotel General Manager Jeremy Aniere said the “dual partnership” has been a win-win and that the hotel’s recent shift in branding, as a high-scale, modern sports venue, is directly in line with NFL China. NFL players and cheerleaders who attended the NFL Home Field initiative, which drew nearly 100,000 people over the span of nine weeks, stayed in the hotel. Aniere said that they are looking to continue the partnership with NFL China, as well as a potential expansion to the NBA.

AROUND TOWN: NFL China’s viewing party was the largest in Beijing, but several bars and restaurants around town joined in on the fun. Two of Beijing’s most popular restaurants, Home Plate BBQ and Great Leap Brewing, both maxed out their spots. Home Plate Manager Brian Murray said that about 140 people filled the building to watch the Super Bowl, broadcast locally to ensure no Internet hiccups. China broadcasters included Shanghai G-Sports, Jinbao Sports, Guangdong TV Sports, Euro Soccer and SiTV. Murray said that “the fans had a great time” and hosting was “worth it” in all regards, including financially, and to help dictate how they will further improve the experience next year. Tim’s Texas BBQ was recommending fans to arrive by 6:15 to guarantee a spot for the 7:30 kickoff. Irish pub Paddy O’Sheas began celebrations the night before, playing halftime shows from the past 30 years leading up to kickoff.
Kristen Heimstead is a writer in Beijing.

On Super Bowl Sunday, London went NFL crazy. Jacksonville Jaguars cheerleaders danced on the stage, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford talked to adoring fans in replica shirts and Jaguars’ players discussed how much they loved London. The NFL’s official Super Bash took place at the indigO2 inside the O2 Arena and featured more than two hours of entertainment and razzmatazz (interviews with stars, games, dancing, and loud music) before the screening of the game on a giant screen. The Super Bash is in its seventh year and the free event is now more popular than ever, with 32,000 applying for just 2,000 tickets, as U.K. fans clamor for a slice of the NFL.

WINNING THE FANS OVER: NFL UK Marketing & Events Manager Steve McEwen said, “The U.K. is the place where the sport is growing and the fans are growing. Our sponsors are putting more in and part of it [this event] is to make sure our sponsors are feeling part of the NFL. And we want to keep giving back to the fans.” Sunday night, sponsors were given an opportunity to showcase their brands, so big name sponsors such as Pepsi gave out free fizzy drinks, Budweiser free beer. Lesser known sponsors such as Majestic Athletic gave away 30 jackets in competitions staged during the evening. All the sponsors had visible branding at the O2, as they look to cement ties with the NFL. Stafford, whose Lions team will play the Atlanta Falcons at Wembley, said of the NFL’s status in the U.K., “You can tell it’s big. It’s getting bigger. I am definitely excited about it. This is my first time to London and I am having a blast.”

LOOKING FOR MORE GROWTH: The NFL’s U.K. office has between 15 and 18 staff headed up by Managing Dir Alastair Kirkwood and including marketing and digital execs, most of whom were there last night, engaging with the fans, who were mostly Londoners, along with a few visiting Americans. Along with Stafford, Jaguars players Jason Babin, Cameron Bradfield and Will Rackley -- who said of playing at Wembley, “I heard the atmosphere was great. And it was crazy” -- were also in attendance. All of the star players signed autographs with queues at least 50-people deep, as fans looked to get near their heroes. McEwen said it was the biggest Super Bowl party so far, but he expected it to grow in the future. McEwen: “We do events all year round. Last year, we had some players from the Minnesota Vikings do a press tour. We went to Manchester, Dublin, Leeds and London. We are always trying to keep the calendar going and keep giving back to fans.”
John Reynolds is a correspondent in London.