The future of events: are multiple host cities the way forward?

Two cities or countries working together to put on one mega event has been a slowly increasing trend. Vision examines the ramifications of co-hosts for the future of events

As expressions of national prestige go, it doesn’t get much better than hosting a mega-event. From the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to the 2005 World Expo in Nagoya, Japan, introducing millions of visitors to a country can impact sectors as varied as transport or tourism figures – and result in changes that can last decades. 

While the benefits to a 'nation-brand' are significant, the costs can be just as impactful. The last Olympic Games in London cost the United Kingdom almost $15bn – approximately the amount Brazil also had to find as hosts of the FIFA World Cup. Naturally, there are many benefits to hosting these sporting celebrations. But with the global economy still in a state of flux, it was of little surprise to many that only two cities ended up bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics, the lowest ever.

However, the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 reforms, published last year, opened the door for future bids to hold certain events in other cities – or even countries – for reasons of sustainability. And although the recommendations stopped short of outwardly encouraging a joint bid, football’s experience of co-hosting tournaments suggests it’s very much the way in which successful and cost effective sporting events might operate in the future. 

The marker was set down by UEFA European Championships, the hosting of which was shared for the first time in 2000 by the Netherlands and Belgium. A festival of football across two neighbouring countries, it proved a great success – and crucially, became the first European Championship to turn a profit. UEFA received more in sponsorship than it spent on costs, therefore negating the need for subsidies when it came to stadia, transport and the like. 

2000 UEFA Championships
The Amsterdam arena at the 2000 UEFA Championships - the event was co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium

So it was no surprise that the experiment was repeated in Switzerland and Austria for Euro 2008 and again in Poland and Ukraine four years later. Consultancy experts Capital Economics commented that the increase in tourism alone meant that the “economic benefit of Euro 2012 for Poland and Ukraine [was] more significant than is usually the case with major sporting tournaments.”  

Meanwhile, the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan remains FIFA’s only co-hosted tournament – but the inevitable forthcoming changes in its governance have encouraged Australia and New Zealand to start discussing a joint bid for 2026 after the success of their co-hosted Cricket World Cup.  

Supporters of single nation events often revel in the intoxicating, all-encompassing atmosphere in those countries while the tournaments are on. So it will certainly be interesting to see how Euro 2020 is received: there are no host countries at all, UEFA simply hosting it in 13 different cities across the continent.  

One of those cities is Bilbao in Spain, rather than Madrid or Barcelona, and certainly when it comes to the Olympic Games the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms have also opened the door for smaller cities to host or co-host the event. Paris has asked for bids to host its sailing competitions for 2024, the final decision going to Marseilles, nearly 800km away. Hamburg is not exactly a minor city, but it became Germany’s bid for the 2024 Olympiad thanks to its ability to host everything in a “small circle”.  

With such overwhelming evidence that having multiple hosts increases visibility, participation and profit, it's certain to become part of the fabric of our future sports tournaments.