Fri 18th Aug 2017
August 2017: Major sporting events are coming thick and fast
Ellvena Graham, President, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
At NI Chamber we consistently argue that a devolved Government is by far the most effective form of political decision making and it is tempting to simply get depressed about the current state of our politics. Even our weather with a little too much cloud and not enough sunshine is an apt metaphor for politics here. But the typical Northern Irish summer has more beams of sunshine breaking through than we think, and even when we’re waiting on the clouds to pass, we’re more than capable of getting on with things.
In recent years the summer has seen major international events hosted here, like the Giro d’Italia and the Irish Open, removing any lingering notion of Northern Ireland as a ‘little place’. This year we have two major international sporting events taking place which are putting us on the map as a leader in the promotion of international women’s sport.
The Women’s Rugby World Cup will see the leading nations playing at Queen’s University and Kingspan Stadium, with the home of Ulster Rugby hosting the final of the tournament.
Meanwhile, the 2017 WU19 EUROs are well underway, with games across Irish League stadia including the revamped and very impressive National Stadium. Women’s football has seen huge growth as a spectator sport in recent years, and is finally beginning to gain some of the recognition that men’s football receives. In sport, as in business, the girls are making waves and are showing that they can sometimes do it better than the boys. And isn’t it really uplifting to see young international teams strolling around Belfast proudly dressed in their official kit?
Major events like this are coming thick and fast, because Belfast and the whole region is recognised as being capable of excellent delivery. Destination NI is competitive, accessible and welcoming, and the visitors these events bring in are availing of our considerable hospitality and tourist attractions.
Now, we are seeing the ambition grow. We’ve recognised that having one or two nice attractions is not enough, and to truly build on the offering we currently have, we can do more, including taking the bold steps to improve key infrastructure.
The men’s Rugby World Cup bid is the next major target, and infrastructure improvements will be an important aspect of making this a success and seeing the benefits of bringing thousands of new visitors in. Maximising Northern Ireland’s role in this would be boosted by the return of the local executive and the stability that brings, and the wider business community would readily welcome such action.
But in the meantime the ray of light will be the sportswomen taking to the pitch to show us how to win on a world stage, and we will settle for that.