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December 2004 - AN EVALUATION OF MASS MEDIA COVERAGE IN INTERNATIONAL ATHLETIC EVENTS AS SEEN THROUGH THE ORGANIZATION OF WINDSURFING CHAMPIONSHIPS IN RHODES

By Achilleas Tzimas and Christos Petreas

The recent hosting of the Olympic Games in Greece has raised the issue of the organization of athletic events and their effects on public services, promotion of the host country or area, the financial benefits, as well as the management of costly athletic complexes. Furthermore, the tourist industry in Greece, which is rapidly developing into the most important product of the economy, can greatly benefit from such promotion. The organization of athletic events and their relative repercussions are of particular interest.

Regular athletic meetings of international championships and competitive sports have recently come to the foreground (eg European athletic games, Euro- football etc). In light of the Olympic Games, Greece has been able to observe how the organization of an athletic event affects its host socially, economically and communicatively. Apart from the Olympic games, the most popular events both in Greece and abroad were those, which were held in extensive sports facilities be they stadiums or special structures for games such as soccer.

The prime focus of major athletic events is not the sport in itself but the benefits reaped by MM (mass media) coverage and subsequent financial gains. In regular athletic events with regional or international range, broadcasting is paid for by MM organizations which is not often taken advantage of by the hosting area and as such no effective preparation for media coverage is undertaken and the repercussions of such coverage are ignored.

However, we must bear in mind that there are athletic events, which need little to no requirements as far as permanent facilities are concerned and thus need no special expenditure or maintenance before or after the sporting event. Such sports can offer tremendous benefits on the same scale as the major athletic events, which have been held in Greece recently. Such an example of this is the Windsurfing Championships in Rhodes, which combines action with the sea. The sport is unique in that it offers both participation and viewing by visiting tourists and local residents. As such we have not taken full advantage of the potential of tourist involvement or the organization of events that apart from attracting spectators can offer tremendous economic gains.

The sport of Windsurfing has offered significant benefits to the island of Rhodes in recent years. The major events, which have been held on Ialissos beach by the Rhodes Windsurfing Academy (RWA) over the last decade, have created one of the best-organized spots for fanatics of the sport. Moreover, official findings have shown that the events have promoted the region due to MM coverage.

The promotion of the championship, which will include some of the best wind surfers in the world, may also be a chance for spectators to try the sport on one of the many surf spots on the island.Ialissos is one of the best places on the island for Freestyle, Course and Slalom. The wind in the area is stable creating side shore waves and the sea has wave patterns ranging from small cutting waves to very large waves.

It has been noted that a large number of tourists visit Rhodes not only during athletic events but also at other periods, combining windsurfing and vacations. Data on windsurfing as a sport show that there are at least 15 million surfers in 45 countries mainly around Europe, North America and Japan. The Formula Windsurf 2002 and 2004 in Rhodes, apart from being a great success was also an important happening for the island. It produced worldwide media coverage in national and international press, establishing Rhodes and Windsurfing throughout the world.

In view of the forthcoming Formula Windsurfing European Championship in June 2005, we must stress that apart from a great athletic event it will be a great promotional opportunity for Greece as it will be the focal point of all interested parties even more so than in previous events.

Previous windsurfing events:

Table 1 Type of event

Nos.

Year

Title of event

Range

1

1992

IFCA World Championship

International

2

1997

PWA World Cup

International

3

1998

Greek Funboard National Championship

National

4

1998

King of Rhodes Freestyle and Slalom event

Regional

5

1999

Greek Funboard National Championship

National

6

1999

King of Rhodes Freestyle and Slalom event

Regional

7

2002

Formula Windsurfing Grand Prix

International

8

2004

Formula Windsurfing Grand Prix

International

Table 2 Statistical information on events

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Athletes

160

50

80

20

60

20

50

20

Attendants

600

200

300

100

250

100

200

150

Duration days

14

10

10

7

10

7

14

14

Spectators- approx.

> 1000

> 1000

600-800

> 200

500-600

> 200

> 1000

> 1000

Length of MM coverage

All year

All year

2 months before
4 after

1 month before
2 after

2 months before
4 after

1 month before
2 after

All year

All year

Major Sponsors Organizations

2

2

3

1

3

1

4

5

Major Sponsors
Entrepreneurs

1

4

3

1

4

2

0

4

Sponsors products/ services

4

8

9

4

10

6

10

12

Brief conclusion taken from Table 2:

  • International events clearly have much larger ratings.
  • The international aspect is more important than the number of athletes and attendants taking part.
  • There are more sponsors in international events.
  • International events have a larger duration (2 weeks) hence more time for MM coverage.

Table 3 MM Coverage by event

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Local Press

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

National News

15

12

10

6

8

6

20

20

National Athletic Press

10

6

4

-

5

-

10

10

International Press

-

-

-

-

-

-

4

4

Local magazines

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

National magazines

6

8

10

4

10

4

10

8

International magazines

20

20

2

2

3

2

20

20

Local Radio

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

National Radio

6

4

10

6

9

6

Alpha Live
+10

ERA Sport
+10

Local TV Stations

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

National TV Stations

& Pool

& Pool

MEGA ANT1

MEGA ANT1

MEGA ANT1

MEGA ANT1

Alpha & Pool

& Pool

International TV Stations

PBA (100)

SSM/ PWA
(>150)

-

-

-

-

Tonix Pictures
(>150)

DMI
(>250)

Internet/website

race

RWA Cybex

RWA Cybex

RWA

RWA

RWA

RWA

RWA Cybex

Organization

IFCA
ISAF

PWA

-

-

ISAF IWA FWC

ISAF IWA FWC

Sponsors

2

2

4

2

4

2

10

4+12

E- newspapers

-

-

-

-

-

-

4

4

From the experience of Rhodes up to date we can identify the following factors as good successful coverage of such an athletic event by MM:

  • Previous advertising of event
  • Good publishing material
  • Branding of the event and the host area
  • Successful experience of previous events
  • Event combined with quality sponsoring
  • Organizing of a number of side events for the participants, attendants, spectators and visitors

In short, the hosting of events up to now has been successful and this is evident by the scheduling of future Windsurf events from 2005 2008 as follows:

  • 2005: From 4th to 12th June Windsurf Formula European Championship.
  • 2006: Windsurf Formula World Championship.
  • 2007: Windsurf Formula Grand Prix (a world ranking grade 1 event) and island games.
  • 2008: Formula Windsurf Grand Prix followed by Aegean Odyssey by windsurf (a challenge for the best international athletes to participate in the event).

We have recommended that Rhodes become a point of attraction and training area for windsurf and sailing athletes in general. In support of the choice of Rhodes and Greece as a host for other athletic events we must consider the benefits gained in previous International Windsurf Championships hosted by our country. These events were responsible for the strengthening and promotion of the international athletic spirit in our country, in an arena the sea, which is available free of charge. Most importantly, we do not need to build colossal training facilities to accommodate this athletic event.

In our effort to promote new forms of quality tourism, windsurfing, which is already established both athletically and as a tourist facility, is perhaps the only quick and inexpensive form of promotion for our islands and the Aegean in general.

Clearly it would be prudent to initiate research that would pinpoint and analyze new forms of athletic tourism, which exhibit these advantages through MM coverage, with the benefits that this entails. As far as Rhodes is concerned, we have already scheduled research into successive future events. The establishment of a series of athletic events and their support in the future will bring in huge benefits to Rhodes, the Aegean and Greece. However, this can only be achieved through a combined and systematic effort by all of us.