Luvuyo Bangazi: Make the best of opportunities arising from sporting events

A recent trip to Cape Town highlighted how innovative and creative people are when faced with a crisis.

I stepped into a gymnasium for a little preparation before taking in the International Triathlon Union World Cup event in the Mother City.

I was surprised by the methods implemented there to save water – even beeping timers in the showers.

The ITU World Cup is the season opener, part of a 17-race global roster.

Age group athletes like me could choose to do the sprint distance (500m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run) or the standard distance (750m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run).

I chose to do the standard.

Cape Town delivered the best conditions for swim, bike and run, almost rivalling our Bay conditions.

However, the focus today is triathlon, especially with Nelson Mandela Bay hosting three days of Ironman racing with more than 7 500 athletes.

The city hosts the iconic Ironman African Championship in April, that race being one of a select few in the world carrying a continental championship status.

Recently, athletes from around the world voted the Bay event among the top 10 in multiple categories, a feather in the cap of the organisers.

Then, on September 1 and 2, Nelson Mandela Bay will host two more days of racing – a world championship with nearly 4 500 athletes, women on Saturday and men on Sunday.

World championships bring international media, corporates, industry and spectators, all carrying dollars and euros.

We are a bargain holiday destination in dollar and euro terms.

The trick is to innovate enough and create attractive products to keep these visitors for more than the few days of racing.

Let alone that most of these athletes will be travelling with family and friends.

The water crisis has yielded much out-ofthe-box thinking, with lots of gimmicks and would-be quick money spinners to solve the problem.

The same energy applied to the water crisis needs to be at play when we tackle economic opportunities.

A few weeks ago I sat with a cultural entrepreneur wanting to know about opportunities available for heritage and cultural tourism.

The estimated R300-million spend over the 10 days or more of the world champs will find those who innovate getting off the mark quickly, offering services and experiences that will make our visitors part with their currency.

Entrepreneurs are risk-takers and opportunists.

Unfortunately, a lot of us in South Africa believe we can grow entrepreneurs in laboratories called incubators.

Those entrepreneurs who see the opportunities will end up with the spoils while many ask “What happened?”

If you believe 20 000 visitors are a captive market, ask yourself, what will you offer them?

I am certain the municipality will do all it can to share information and create access, but the buck stops with the citizens.

My bugbear is that events like this should surely facilitate new entrants to the market in terms of services, trade and business opportunities.

The established networks will not simply open up themselves either.

Most of the 2010 World Cup dreams were never realised because most people waited for hand-holding, primarily from the government.

That time is over and unfortunately we are running out of time.

Seven months to go.

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