THE Kanga Cup has once again proven itself to be the prototype for mass-participation sporting events that Canberra should be chasing under the sports tourism banner. Teams came to Canberra from across Australia. It was organised within a centimetre of its life. The match officials were well-coached and in control and there was a professional feel about the way the event was conducted.
The influx of tourism dollars in an otherwise “dead” time of the year during the winter school holidays in Canberra was apparent. Convoys of mini buses travelling from hotel to venue or parked outside fast-food outlets were testament to this.
Canberra lends itself to such events because of the ease of getting to and the apparent abundance and availability of sporting grounds. The only issue I had with the grounds was the variable quality. But this was minor in the overall scheme of things and the ravages of the drought and impact that it has had on our sporting grounds needs to be taken into account.
It has become increasingly obvious that Canberra is struggling to attract major events such as a cricket test, a Bledesloe Cup or the Commonwealth Games because of the role that money plays in where major events are staged.
It is for that reason we need to look at staging more mass-participation events rather than the so called “blockbusters”.
I know this goes against some of the things I have campaigned for over the years, such as a rugby test match each year or a cricket test. However, when we have staged rugby tests at Canberra Stadium it has been a hard sell to encourage people to buy tickets to see the Wallabies play an under-strength Fiji or Samoa. It was even a struggle to get people to watch the Wallabies play Argentina.
If we are not going to get the top teams, why bother?
The 2013 British and Irish Lions tour is different with a game against the Brumbies, in many respects, bigger than the Wallabies versus a second-tier side.
If we are limited by our budget in attracting major events, then we need to look outside the square and play to our strengths by getting behind concepts such as the Kanga Cup and junior cricket’s Kookaburra Cup.
Another area that we should be looking at is the non-traditional, mass-participation sporting events following on from the success of the 24-hour mountain bike races. Adventure sport is another growth area with the terrain around Canberra lending itself well to this style of sport.
It is an issue I have raised in the past because I can see Canberra missing out if we are not pro-active with financial support offered from ACT Government.
It is hard to guarantee how much money will be spent by people coming to an event such as the Kanga Cup, but we need to take a punt on more mass-participation events whether it be in schools sport, adventure sport or masters games.