The Making of a World Class Town
Nearly a decade ago, Cincinnati was one among a select group of U.S. cities being considered to host the 2012 Summer Olympics. New York got the bid. London beat New York. End of story, right? Wrong. Turns out the Queen City will be hosting a 2012 Olympics (though of a slightly different variety), not to mention a number of other world-class events which are finding our region to be the ideal site to put down stakes.
Ironically, it was our failed Olympic bid that first caught the attention of Günter Titsch, founder of the World Choir Games, also known as the "Olympics of Choral Music". Titsch explains that his organization's "decision to award the 2012 World Choir Games to Cincinnati was heavily influenced by the city's bid for the Summer Olympics . . .proof that Cincinnati was open and enthusiastic about hosting a major event."
As President of INTERKULTUR
, the Germany-based non-profit organization that created and produces the biennial World Choir Games, Titsch also credits Cincinnati's rich musical heritage and her outstanding facilities. "The infrastructure for a major event is simply excellent here," adds Titsch, noting in particular the fine acoustical, technical, and spatial attributes of our concert venues.
The World Choir Games
is certainly deserving of only the finest, considering the vocal talent represented by the 20,000 participants expected to journey to Cincinnati- the first U.S. city to host the event- in July 2012. Representing over 70 nations, the beautiful voices of these gifted international chorales are expected to draw more than 200,000 spectators to the city and will have an economic impact of $73.5 million on our region, according to a study by the University of Cincinnati's Economics Center for Education and Research.
"That's bigger than anything we have been involved with to this point," says Dan Lincoln, Executive Director of World Choir Games 2012 and President & CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Singing their praises, Lincoln notes that it took the "team effort of the state, the city, the Chambers, the Regional Tourism Network, the arts community and local patrons" to bring this world class event to the Queen City.
No doubt puzzling over why it took others so long to discover the global appeal of our region is a professional tennis tournament celebrating its 111th year here in Cincinnati.
Known today as the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters & Women's Open
, "the oldest tennis tournament in the world still played in its original city" was first held in 1899 at the Avondale Athletic Club, on what is now Xavier University's campus.
The popularity of the tournament-originally called the Cincinnati Open- seemed destined from the start, attracting a final day crowd of over 2,000 spectators and enticing a men's draw that out-numbered that of the U.S. National Championships. Prizes awarded at the inaugural event included a $150 Rookwood ale set for the Gentlemen's Champion and a $100 Rookwood vase for the Ladies' Champion.
The century-old tournament has seen many changes since the days of the players' all-white attire. Today it is considered "one of the top ten tennis tournaments in the world" with total prize money topping $4.4 million. Consistently drawing the best players from around the globe, Tournament Director Bruce Flory anticipates the event to draw "between 230-235,000 spectators" during this year's two-week run in August.
As evidenced by its world-class facility in Mason, Flory attributes the successful tenure of the tournament in Cincinnati to "continual investment and facility improvements," a commitment that may have something to do with Cincinnati's distinction as the first to be named by the International Tennis Hall of Fame as a "Tennis City of the Year".
The investment is well worth it, according to Flory. "If you want to be an international city, you have to have international events," he says, adding, "the global awareness the tournament brings to our area goes well beyond the tournament's $30 million regional economic impact."
Also drawing international attention to our region is what the New York Times
has referred to as "the largest sporting event to come to the U.S. since the 2002 Winter Olympic Games."
Just 80 miles south of Cincinnati, final preparations are underway at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, for the long-anticipated arrival, on September 25, of the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games
Following what is being called "the largest trans-Atlantic horse transport since D-Day," more than 800 athletes and 800 horses representing 60 nations will arrive in Lexington to participate in the event's 16 days of equestrian competition.
The World Equestrian Games are anticipated to have a $167 million economic impact on the region, drawing more than 600,000 spectators to the event and a television audience of more than 460 million worldwide.
Dr. Pearse Lyons, President of Alltech, the event's title sponsor, finds it easy to explain why Lexington was chosen as the first U.S. city to host the international event. "Our city has long been heralded as 'The Horse Capital of the World'," says Lyons.
Evidence of that abounds in Lexington's two historic horse racing tracks, the endless miles of white fences surrounding her many majestic horse farms, and the event-hosting Kentucky Horse Park
. Situated on over 1200 acres, this impressive venue boasts a new outdoor stadium and climate-controlled indoor arena, and has earned an international reputation as one the premier competitive equestrian facilities in the world. The selection of Lexington by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) as host of the 2010 World Equestrian Games seems an obvious choice.
Marking its sixth year as a select destination point on the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour
is testament to Cincinnati's popularity among world-renowned volleyball professionals . . . especially considering that our inland city is the only stop on the tour without a traditional beach.
This year's AVP Nivea Tour of Champions- featuring the top 16 men's and women's professional beach volleyball teams in the country- will be hosted by the new Hahana Beach sports complex
in Cincinnati's Columbia Township. The new "boutique" venue, showcasing six volleyball courts, a full-service bar and restaurant, and bleacher seating for 2700 spectators, anticipates attendance during the Labor Day Weekend event of nearly 18,000.
Mario Cicchinelli, Director for ReachUSA Event Marketing, believes that Cincinnati's appeal as a tour stop has much to do with the area's passion for the sport. "The players love coming to the tri-state because the fans are so knowledgeable and they treat the players so well," says Cicchinelli. He also attributes the "many amenities the city has to offer" as being a big attraction for the tournament's players.
The disappointment of a missed Olympic bid may be long remembered as the switch that turned the global spotlight on the Queen City and our region- illuminating her as an international hostess with the passion, capacity and infrastructure it takes to entertain world-class events.
Sometimes losing's not such a bad thing.Photography by Scott Beseler
Phil Dalhausser's serveChristian Ljunggren, Artistic Director, INTERKULTUR and the World Choir Games; Stefan Bohländer, Director of Finance and Events, INTERKULTUR; Guenter Titsch, President, INTERKULTUR; and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory (from left to right) Opening night at the 2010 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters & Women's OpenUnseeded Ana Ivanovich upsets Vika Azarenka, No. 9 seed, first night of the OpenNorthern Kentucky horse stable photos, (by Tiffani Fisher)Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers