Auckland beats Sydney in sporty stakes

By Mathew Dearnaley

Auckland has been named the world's third most sports-mad city, edging out the likes of Sydney and Istanbul.

Its bronze title - bestowed at the International Sports Event Management Awards in London yesterday - follows the city's inclusion on the Lonely Planet travel guide's list of the top 10 cities in the world to visit.

Only London and Dubai were considered by the judges to be sportier than Auckland, which gained the No2 spot in last year's awards after the 2011 Rugby World Cup and its opening ceremony.

The latest Sport City award followed Auckland's hosting of world triathlon, softball and BMX cycling championships in 2012-13, as well as the return of the V8 Supercars tournament to Pukekohe.

Auckland Council's tourism and economic development arm estimates such events brought a return of $39.1 million on investment of about $12 million.

That included accommodation receipts from 290,000 visitor nights, according to Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed).

And there's plenty more to come, starting with the three-day, six-nation Fast5 Netball World Series opening at Vector Arena this evening and including international tennis, triathlon, table tennis, rugby, aquatic and yachting events next year, to be followed by the ICC Cricket World Cup and the Fifa Under-20 World Cup in 2015.

The award came as welcome news for Auckland mayor Len Brown, a day after having his city ranked the 15th most traffic-congested out of 169 surveyed on six continents by navigation company TomTom.

"This recognition and the recent Lonely Planet Top 10 announcement shows we continue to gain global recognition as a place to hold events and to visit," he said. "It also shows that our work to make Auckland a great place to visit and to live is getting results."

Ateed destination and marketing general manager Rachael Carroll said her agency's award entry highlighted Auckland as a city transformed by sport, in which its hosting of major events was entwined with the region's development.

"Auckland has developed a global reputation as an event-friendly host and has grown a diverse portfolio of major events," she said.

"Hosting these events is helping to rejuvenate our city, fast-tracking improvements to public spaces, increasing the use of public transport, winning the hearts of visitors and Aucklanders - and paving the way towards making Auckland the world's most liveable city.

"We've also beaten one of our main competitors in Australia, which is great."

Tourism New Zealand's corporate affairs general manager, Chris Roberts, said the accolade was fantastic for Auckland and New Zealand.

"New Zealand's international profile is raised when it hosts major sporting events, which makes them a key part of the work Tourism NZ does to attract international visitors.

"Is is not just the participants, friends and fans who come for the events themselves - it's the opportunity to promote New Zealand in those markets following the events."

- NZ Herald

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