The two-yearly Winter Games, kicking off in Queenstown tomorrow, could become an annual event.
“It is a possibility,” Games CEO Arthur Klap admits.
The next Games will still take place in 2017, but Klap says they might then run annually, from 2018 through to 2222, at least.
The 10-day event attracts about 800 international athletes competing in sports like alpine and cross country skiing, snowboarding, freeskiing and curling.
“There is a lot of demand for it to go annual, from venues and from the international [sporting] bodies,” Klap says.
“The issue is more, are we able to deliver?
“If you go annual, there’s some minor savings - you might save half a million dollars just in staffing.”
However, instead of raising $4.8 million to run one event every two years, Klap says he’d need to raise $9m over the same period.
Queenstown and Wanaka, the main Games hosts, stand to benefit hugely if the event’s run annually.
Klap says international visitors to the last Games, in 2013, clocked up 37,000 bed nights, and New Zealand visitors another 11,000 nights.
Out of this year’s $4.8m budget, he estimates 60 per cent is being spent in the local economy.
Through TV coverage and other marketing, the Games have also become a major tourism promotional tool for the Queenstown-Lakes district.
Klap says holding the Games every year would also provide more continuity of employment for staff.
Interestingly, after the first Games were held in 2009, then-NZSki boss James Coddington said he’d prefer they were held every four years, rather than biennially.
It was confirmed yesterday that current Olympic giant slalom gold medallist and world champion Ted Ligety is in the field for tomorrow night’s $30,000 dual night slalom.
Heading the women’s field will be fellow American Mikaela Shriffin, the current Olympic slalom gold medallist and world champion and World Cup titleholder.
International Ski Federation (FIS) secretary-general Sarah Lewis is attending the Winter Games.
Klap, meanwhile, says he has issues with Queenstown Lakes District Council’s events fund.
He’s grateful that the council’s granting $100,000 for these Games, but says its policy of only handing over money after an event, as a form of reimbursement, is “a disaster for events”.
“That money should come before the event, not after it, because we go into serious cashflow difficulties through September and October.
“Ironically, we have to spend the money that we haven’t got to get the money to reimburse ourselves for the money we’ve had to borrow.
“And we will have to borrow post-these Games to pay accounts.
“And a sponsor doesn’t do that.
“I’ve twice now written [to the council] and it hasn’t got through yet.”
QLDC corporate services manager Meaghan Miller says the council adopts the same policy as many other community funders like Central Lakes Trust and the Community Trust of Southland.
The bottom line is that the events fund is ratepayer money that demands transparent accountability, she says.
“We need to be entirely satisfied that the funds are dedicated to the elements that we have agreed to fund, and that the event has delivered what it promised.
“With all due respect to the Winter Games, funding an event before it has been delivered carries an unacceptable element of risk.”