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Volume 6 No. 214

Events and Attractions

L.A., Chicago, N.Y. and San Francisco are the only U.S. cities that should be fighting it out to host the 2024 Olympics, according to Wasserman Media Group Chair & CEO Casey Wasserman, who also diplomatically questioned whether Jay-Z will be in the sports business for the long haul. Wasserman said that a U.S. bidding city for the 2024 Olympics must boast a global reputation -- seemingly questioning the credentials of cities like Boston, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, which have expressed interest in bidding for the 2024 Olympics. Wasserman said, "L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, New York are much more interesting." He added that rival U.S. cities "may be capable, but aren’t as interesting on a global scale" and would not give the Olympic movement a big enough platform. In a wide-ranging interview at a SportsPro Live conference in London on Thursday, Wasserman also appeared to question the long-standing commitment of Jay-Z to the sports industry, following the high-profile launch of his sports management agency, Roc Nation Sports, last year.

THE LONG HAUL: Questioned about the launch of Roc Nation Sports and its possible impact on Wasserman Media, Wasserman said, “Look, he [Jay-Z] is entitled to start a business in sport if he wants. We can sustain a very large meaningful influential business. There will always be competitors, some will come and some will go. We have not seen a meaningful impact on our business.” Likewise, Wasserman played down the impact of William Morris Endeavour’s purchase of IMG Worldwide on Wasserman Media, stressing that the deal had benefited the overall sports industry. Wasserman: “We compete very well with IMG, so I am confident in our ability to compete in the marketplace. Frankly, success in our competitors is good for the industry. The truth is, we don’t actually compete with IMG that much. In actual day-to-day business we don’t. They have moved away from what I would call the representation business almost entirely.”

'VALIDATION' OF VALUE: In his view, Wasserman said the acquisition of IMG Worldwide represented both the “validation of the value of the sports world” and an indication of the challenge the “entertainment industry is facing." Asked about his thoughts on the past 10 years and the sports organizations that have particularly stood out, Wasserman pointed to the NBA "as positioning itself as a truly global sports brand." He also cited the Bundesliga. He asserted that new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was the perfect candidate to replace David Stern. Wasserman said that the skill set of an NBA commissioner was not changing and that they still needed to be the face of the league, in light of constant media scrutiny. But Wasserman stressed that the skill sets of sports organizations, like the NBA, were quickly changing and the roles of sales, marketing and managing intellectual property within those organizations were much more nuanced today.
John Reynolds is a writer in London.

Despite the "fragile global economy, there is no shortage of hosts willing to stump up hundreds of millions to persuade the F1 caravan to bring a race weekend to their city," according to Roger Baird of the FINANCIAL TIMES. The reason "is clear." If you "get it right," the way newer circuits such as Singapore and Austin, Texas, have done, the "event nets tens of millions in local spending." Force India Deputy Team Principal Bob Fernley said, “Singapore and Austin are shining examples of how a Grand Prix can help showcase a region. In Singapore, people now come into the country days before the race, or stay on and spend money.” The Singapore Tourist Office said last year that "there was a 12 per cent surge in flights into the country over its September race weekend," which brought in an extra £71M to the island state over the period. To get it right, F1 race weekend organizers "need to get the national, or at the very least, regional government to back the project." Just Marketing Int'l CEO Zak Brown said, “This is not just so it can help with funding. The state of Texas provided around £18 million of funding for the Austin track. But importantly, the state will help pass bills to greenlight planning, redirect traffic and close down parts of the city to host street parties.” But perhaps, most importantly, "an organiser needs deep pockets and patience." Bringing an F1 race to a city "is not cheap." Indian Grand Prix organizers Jaypee Group spent about £250M to build the Buddh Int'l Circuit in Uttar Pradesh and host three races there from '11 (FT, 3/13). In London, Roger Blitz reported the idea of Ron Dennis “coming back” to McLaren "bemuses him." Dennis: “I haven’t been anywhere.” However, Dennis "is back in the driving seat, taking charge of the business of winning races." The atmosphere at McLaren "has lifted, say insiders." Dennis "is on the front foot, barking orders, making decisions" (FT, 3/13).

A NEW ERA: Also in London, Simon Gray reported the three drivers who will start a Grand Prix for the first time in Melbourne this weekend "will be acutely aware that Formula One is an environment with little mercy for rookies who fail to prove their worth rapidly." McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson "will be under pressure to deliver results." The shortlived F1 experience of Giedo van der Garde and another '13 rookie, Marussia’s Max Chilton, "is a cautionary tale for the three newcomers." They can "take heart" from Esteban Gutierrez, who after an unpromising start at Sauber "kept his seat with a series of excellent late-season performances," and Valtteri Bottas, who has "shown his ability in preseason testing of the much improved 2014 Williams" (FT, 3/13). In Sydney, Chip Le Grand wrote "gone are the V8s, banished to the scrapyard like so many Australian-made sedans." In their place "is the turbocharged six, with all manner of electronic wizardry providing extra power from other parts of the car." No "more need for ear plugs." Gone "is the piercing F1 whine, replaced by a lower, throaty grumble." All the talk "is of torque, bucketloads of it, a surplus in any gear." Former world champion Jenson Button: “There is so much power at your disposal the whole time, there is so much torque. I have never driven a racing car with torque before in my whole career. So this is new to most of us" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/14).

The inaugural Formula E race has been set around the grounds of China’s Olympic Stadium, more commonly known as the "Bird’s Nest" and venue for the 2008 Olympic Games. At 3.44km in length and featuring 20 turns, the anti-clockwise temporary circuit has been custom made by designer Rodrigo Nunes, working in close cooperation with the FIA, Formula E, the Republic of China Motor Sport Federation, the Olympic Park Committee, the Beijing mayor, the Chinese Government and event organizer Team China Racing. The circuit remains subject to final FIA Homologation. It will see the 20 Formula E drivers tackle a mix of tight left-hand turns -- offering late braking and overtaking opportunities -- together with twisty chicanes and two main straights. In addition, the track features a unique "U-shaped" pit lane with spectator areas located inside. Beijing is the first of 10 city-center races on the inaugural '14-15 Formula E calendar to be revealed. Formula E races will be held over a single day to minimize disruption to each host city with the practice session, qualifying and 60-minute race taking place on Saturday followed by a live music concert (Formula E).

The 2015 Int'l Paralympic Committee Nordic Skiing World Championships will be held in Cable, Wisconsin. The event will feature cross-country and biathlon races. It will be held from Jan. 24-Feb. 1. It is being organized locally by the Central Cross Country Ski Association (IPC). ... The U.K.'s first professional multi-stage cycling race for women, held mainly across East Anglia in May, "will feature some of the world's top teams and riders." Briton Emma Trott: "People said the London Olympics was the best crowd they had ever ridden in front of. This could be even better, for five days. That's pretty special." The Women's Tour will start in Northamptonshire on May 7 and finish in Suffolk on May 11 (BBC, 3/13).