On the spot
International Relations Manager, Czech Olympic Committee
Could you describe in a few words what is an Olympic Festival and the Sport Parks Inspired by the Olympics project?
The Olympic Festival is a new Olympic asset created by the IOC in 2017. It offers the opportunity to National Olympic Committees (NOC) to bring the Olympic Games to the local population by staging a festival during Games-time a wide audience and younger generations can discover and experience sports and watch the Games. The first NOCs to organise an Olympic Festival in 2018 were those of the Czech Republic (2), France, Kosovo, and Slovenia. The Olympic Festival PyeongChang 2018 was organised as a pilot edition where common activities, such as a skating challenge, took place. Study visits and a comparative study were coordinated and organised in the framework of the Sport Parks project to gather knowledge for the upcoming editions of the Olympic Festival.
The Sport Parks Inspired by the Olympics project itself was a two-year-long project led by the Czech Olympic Committee, co-funded by the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union and supported by the International Olympic Committee. It brought together experts from 7 European NOCs with the aim to create an interactive web-based handbook, which would provide NOCs and other (umbrella) sport organisations with recommendations, guidelines, case studies and examples of good practice for the development, organisation, evaluation and sustainability of their Sport Parks Inspired by the Olympics (= sport-for-all events staged during, and linked to, major sport events), including Olympic Festivals (OF). The Handbook is accessible upon registration on https://handbook.sportparks.com/ and can be very helpful not only to the main organisers (NOCs) but to all their partners, including host cities and regions.
The project has built on events organised by NOCs (Belgian, Czech, and Dutch) in the period 2014 – 2016, with the Czech Olympic committee having staged its first “Olympic Park” during the Sochi Games, followed by 4 events during the Summer Games in Rio 2016. The 2018 Olympic Festivals then served as a “test ground” for the recommendations developed in the framework of the project. Detailed information, from these events, including videos and other visual material, are included in the Handbook.
Guidelines are already established for the organisation of such an event? How cities that have already had their Olympic Festival share experience and best practices with cities interested in organising one?
Currently, recommendations, good practice examples and various tools, including many parts and areas relevant to host cities, are featured in the Sport Parks Handbook. My advice to the interested cities would thus be to check the Handbook to get an idea of the past involvement of cities and regions in the events.
The IOC is planning to rollout several activities this year with the aim to promote the Olympic Festival concept to the NOCs with the view to motivate them to get involved already for the Tokyo Games.
Olympic Festival is organised during /at the margin of Olympic Games. How can former Olympic Host Cities implement an Olympic Festival in direct relation with their own Olympic legacy?
The first step for former Olympic Host Cities would be to get in touch with the National Olympic Committee of their country, which is the only body formally entitled to organise an Olympic Festival. Working together with the NOCs, the format and the content of the event can be shaped around a particular anniversary and/or around the Olympic legacy of the Games in question. In both cases, there would be a clear benefit for both partners, but ultimately for the visitors/participants. As the example of Grenoble 2018 shows, the City worked closely together with the French Olympic Committee and its departmental branch to bring together the Olympic Festival activities with the celebration of the 1968 Games. For more details, do not hesitate to check the Grenoble case study in the Handbook.
The Olympic Festival can be, indeed, a great way to help keeping the legacy of the past Games alive and ever more relevant precisely through its connection to the current Games in real time; and this not only in the case of anniversaries, but every 2 years.
What is the expected legacy of an Olympic Festival?
The main aim of the Olympic Festival is to bring the Olympic Games to the local population, as only a fraction of people around the world will ever have a chance to experience the Games in their actual location. Stemming from this aim is the wish to promote Olympic values, make them truly relevant to the young generation and make people and especially children more active. Both, in the immediate future after the event, as well as in between two editions, these elements should bring about a positive, sustainable, impact on the local communities.
Olympic Festival will also be the opportunity to celebrate Olympic athletes, from the current and past editions of the Games. The Olympic Festival is the perfect place for Olympic champions to join the fans and inspire their communities.
What are the required means (finance, HR, volunteers, timeframe) to set up an Olympic festival?
The basic principles applicable to organisation of the Festival under the IOC licence (content-wise) – staging of the event simultaneously with the staging of the given Olympic Games, promoting Olympism and the Olympic Games, providing a feed from the Rights-Holding-Broadcaster, and proposing a wide variety of sports and Olympic-themed educational activities – make of the Olympic Festival a very scalable event.
The Festival can be organised in city centres as well as in nature areas; indoors as well as outdoors; it can take shape of a small scale local weekend festival (e.g. Slovenia), or of a large, multi-sport, multi actor event attracting more than 200 000 visitors (Czech Republic); the production costs can range as well from 30 000 EUR for a small event to 2 million EUR for a big one. I would recommend the interested cities to check the case studies section of the Handbook to get an idea of the different event concepts and sizes, and the required human and financial resources.
How would you encourage and convince Olympic Cities to organise such an event?
It is a fantastic opportunity to bring, every 2 years, the legacy of the past Games back to life by bringing the current Games to the people, and, in particular, to make the past Games resonate and matter again while looking into the future. The Olympic Festival can help the Olympic Cities breath life into their Olympic villages and other monuments, raise awareness of the past while building on the current developments, and create an ”Olympic movement momentum”, which may inspire and motive positive development in other areas such as (physical) education in schools, remembrance activities, urban development etc.
The recent past has shown that host cities and regions can benefit from hosting the Olympic Festival also in terms of boosting their tourism offer and consequently increasing the number of tourists both during and after the event; building an image of an active, able and dynamic city; getting into the spotlight of the media, as well as addressing societal challenges such as the lack of physical activity or social exclusion of certain groups of population.
In short, I would like to encourage the Olympic Cities to get in touch with their NOCs and discuss the options and possibilities to stage an Olympic Festival Tokyo 2020. It is worth it!