Organisers of the first Maldives Beach Games tournament scheduled for later this year claim they are confident of leaving a long lasting sporting legacy in the country for local people and tourists, despite the challenges of self-funding and a lack of event hosting experience.
Hassan Ismail, Chairman of Marketing and PR for the Maldives Beach Games 2011, told Minivan News that the event – running from September 18 to September 25 – was expected to bring unprecedented opportunities, as well as a number of challenges, to the Maldives’ shores.
According to event organizers, the games will aim to bring hundreds of athletes from around the world to the country in order to compete in 10 sporting disciplines involving the sun, as well as potentially receiving coverage from a number of sports broadcasters.
In looking to host the event, Ismail claimed that some 500 to 700 local people were expected to be trained to look after guests and participants while overseeing the games, which is being designed to run as a commercially profitable and ongoing annual event.
“As well as providing entertainment for visitors, we are also trying to ensure sports development for local people to use and train on,” he said. “At present, we don’t have people trained to deal with such as event, so the organising committee is learning during the process. This is a big challenge, though we are bringing in foreign experts to help provide expertise and training.”
In light of recent protests and criticism of governmental financial policy in the Maldives, Ismail claimed that the event would ideally be funded 100 percent through sponsorship, although he conceded that state funding may be needed to “fill gaps” that would eventually then be paid back by organisers.
The event’s marketing head added that the games would be a relatively unique opportunity for participants to come to the Maldives from all over the world without having to pay to enter, serving as an event that was completely self-financed.
“We have not yet disclosed the cost for hosting the event, but will be doing so soon. We are consulting with international sponsors and we even hope we may be able to make a small profit for the event,” he said. “We believe there are plenty of commercial opportunities from this, particularly with broadcasters such as Eurosport and ESPN who have agreed to screen the games.”
Pointing to the Maldives’ present lack of experience with hosting international events, Ismail said that all the country’s broadcasters had agreed to produce programming for national and international coverage of the games, though investments in camera and television equipment would be needed.
“We are looking at sponsorship for local channels to buy equipment that they can produce related programming with,” he said. “We are looking for quotations for equipment, though there is also an important South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) conference taking place in Addu Atoll this year, so perhaps we can find a joint solution [for broadcasting these events].”
A wealth of sports including triathlon, kabaddi, beach cricket, football and ‘volleyball’ along with body building, swimming, rowing, surfing and wind surfing will be contested during the games at different locations around the country that are yet to be identified.
While this year’s inaugural event is not expected to be officially recognised with official status by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Ismail said that discussions were ongoing with the global sporting body about receiving an official stamp within the next few years.
“A number of official bodies are assisting in the games with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) involved in beach soccer and the regional body building association helping with that event,” he said. “By year three, we ideally need the IOC to officially stamp us as an event. But all the sports at the games will be assisted by official bodies, which are important developments to help us gain an official status.”
Ismail claimed that beyond dealing with these potential hosting challenges, the games had two main objectives in the Maldives.
Beyond attempting to host a major international multi-sports event for the first time in the Maldives, he said that it would also be vital to help develop pitches and grounds where both local people and international visitors could train and enjoy sports.
“The Maldives is more than just a beach and cocktail venue, we hope to create a strong sport tourism scene here as well,” he said. “Our hope is that eventually every resort will be hosting mini-events for visitors to take part in.”