The 2015 European Games in Baku encompassed 17 days of competition, involving more than 6,000 athletes from 50 countries competing across 20 sports. It was Europe’s first major continental Games while the host nation, Azerbaijan had never hosted a major multi-sport event before.
“The first European Games will go down in sporting history,” said Azad Rahimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Youth and Sports and Chief Executive Officer of Baku 2015 at the close of the event.
“I am very proud of what has been achieved in Baku and the positive feedback we have been getting in terms of the setting, organisation, hospitality and action. It has been a success for Azerbaijan, and will be a launching pad for future sporting events we will host.”
To deliver the Games, Baku turned to an experienced partner for support in Broadstone – an alliance of international major event professionals. The company’s chairman and managing partner Doug Arnot had served as operations director for three Olympic Games: Atlanta 1996, Salt Lake City 2002 and London 2012 – but Baku was new terrain compared to other events of this size and complexity.
“It was quite different from a lot of perspectives,” he tells HOST CITY. “In the first place we had to work with the European Olympic Committees to define what the event would be; it had no real definition beforehand in terms of what sports would feature, how long the event would be, how we wanted to pitch it and at what level.”
Working with the people of Azerbaijan was another fresh challenge. “They had never had anything that was even remotely close to this in terms of size and complexity.”
And then there was the challenge of timing. As key delivery partner for the Baku 2015 Operations Committee, Broadstone had to assemble and mobilise a senior team of 100 people in 100 days and a further management team of over 350 in less than 18 months. Covering the entire span of operations, Broadstone’s team of industry experts delivered a major multi-sport event in a record time of only 22 months.
“There was no organising committee before got here, so we basically put together the entire organising committee. We did all the marketing, all the commercial, the links with broadcasting; we assembled not only the operations team but also the business team. And then we contracted out, together with the government of Azerbaijan, things like the opening ceremonies.”
The short timelines and unique local conditions required Broadstone to develop innovative approaches to event hosting, such as the use of “I-Zones” to replace traditional media mixed zones and the implementation of a technology infrastructure based entirely on cloud technology.
This was coupled with a creative approach to developing skills locally through a “Games Academy” – the first graduate scheme to be developed and used by a sporting event organising committee.
“The most significant difference to us was having to assemble our own team of event experts right from the start. We got away from the old notions of distinct functional areas and we approached this much more as an event team.
“We knew we were going to be able to bring in local talent, with little to no experience. So we put together our Games Academy, where we worked with local universities to bring young people from Baku, Azerbaijan and in fact Europe into the academy and train them to come in and be able to do their jobs on day one. This was both an adventure for the local universities from an academic perspective and something that was very important to us in terms of getting a well-qualified local work force.
It was this combination of international expertise and local engagement that was ultimately successful in Baku.
“I think there is a lot of wisdom in taking a look at the organising committee structure and distinguishing what the local community can do better than anybody from outside, because of their local knowledge. And then recognising the benefit of international expertise and how we can bring in the best talent and event experience to an organising committee.
“I don’t think it’s ‘either or’ – I don’t think you want to outsource or have a turnkey solution for the entire organising committee, but I think what you want to do is recognise what the local hosts can do better because of their local knowledge and how you need to integrate with them, and at the same time understand that there is a great benefit in bringing in the international expertise and event experience that can really get you on a fast track.”
Broadstone is currently working with a number of high profile sporting events and organisations across the world, including Rio 2016 and the US Olympic Committee.