2022 World Championships: Counting Down To Wollongong
With the 2022 Wollongong World Championships just a year away, Bicycling Australia’s Nicola Rutzou caught up with event CEO Stu Taggart.
This time next year the City of Wollongong will experience the biggest event it has ever seen when it hosts the UCI Road World Championships over eight days.
The person charged with the responsibility for bringing the event to life is CEO Stu Taggart, who has a background in the staging of events for the Football Federation Australia and Australian Rugby Union, and more recently with his own consulting business.
It will be the second time Australia has staged the event, having hosted the 2010 World Champs in Geelong, Victoria. The event itself has a 100-year history with the first UCI Road World Championships in 1921 in Denmark. This year's centenary event will be in the Flanders region of Belgium.
CEO Stu Taggart knows it’s a huge challenge. He took up the role about a year ago and relocated from Sydney’s Northern Beaches with his family to Wollongong so he could give it his whole focus.
The event is expected to attract 300,000 spectators who’ll watch 1,000 athletes compete over the eight days. They will be supported by 5,000 officials and guests, 700 media personnel, and an expected viewing audience of 300 million around the world.
Courses Unveiled Soon
Come October the various courses will be unveiled—but until then it is shrouded in secrecy. Taggart was willing to reveal that the course will showcase the city of Wollongong and the region.
“We’ll be utilising the unique topography of the area, like the ocean and the spectacular escarpment, and we’ll showcase the city in a way that hasn’t been done before,” he told Bicycling Australia.
He was willing to confirm that the start and finish will be in the local area and will highlight key landmarks, rather than in its northern neighbour of Sydney.
The logistics of an eight-day event that will be held on public roads are immense. “The biggest difference from other events I’ve organised is the field of play will now be the suburbs and streets of Wollongong, rather than a stadium,” he said.
“In designing the course we need to take into consideration whether it’s a state-owned road or local council road. We need to work with universities and look at the residential and local business impact, all while avoiding major arterial roads.
“At a more basic level, we have to look at where we will need to place barriers on the streets, how will the logistics work at the start and finish locations, what UCI technical requirements we need to follow. There’s just so many moving parts which makes it complex, but also exciting,” he added.
…He was willing to confirm that the start and finish will be in the local area and will highlight key landmarks, rather than in its northern neighbour of Sydney…
Like all road cycling events, it’s hard to estimate crowd numbers. The best guestimate is 300,000 over the eight days, with the biggest crowds to watch the women’s and men’s elite time trial and the women’s and men’s elite road races.
“Our planning is influenced by many factors, and we have to consider things like the weather—which Yorkshire had to contend with in 2019 with unseasonably high rainfall. We also have to consider the potential impact of COVID-19 because we don’t know where we’ll be at in September next year. All of it needs to be factored into our planning,” said Taggart.
A Boost For The Gong
As a consequence of the hosting of the event, Wollongong has been awarded the prestigious UCI Bike City Label status. Wollongong met the two key criteria to earn the designation by being named host of the 2022 UCI Road World Championships and adopting the City Council’s 2030 Cycling Strategy. The strategy will expand Wollongong’s cycling network and infrastructure while engaging in initiatives to promote cycling and cycling safety within the region.
“Wollongong is the only city in the southern hemisphere to be awarded UCI Bike City status which is a great legacy for other cities in Australia. It also helps promote discussion around active transport and sustainability,” he added.
The Wollongong organising committee meets regularly with UCI delegates and while most of these meetings are virtual at present there will be some visits closer to the event.
“The UCI team is currently focused on this year’s UCI World Road Championships, which will take place in Belgium from 19 to 26 September, but after that event, we’ll be working more closely with them,” he said.
Taggart describes the Worlds as the biggest event Wollongong has ever hosted, and the people of the region are starting to understand just how big it is. The estimated economic impact is $100 million, with the estimated visitor spend of $20 to 25 million, and it is expected to generate the equivalent of 400 full-time jobs.
The organising committee will likely employ around 30 people, and they will work with a range of contractors and specialists to meet specific needs and requirements. There will also be 1,000 to 1,500 volunteers in a variety of roles.
The UCI World Road Championships is part of the NSW Government’s ‘10 World Cups in 10 years’ strategy. Taggart says that he speaks regularly with the CEOs of other World Cup events including the Cricket World Cup, Women’s Basketball World Cup, and the Women’s FIFA World Cup all scheduled to take place over the next few years in NSW.
Taggart doesn’t shy away from the task of bringing many different groups together to stage this event.
“NSW hasn’t hosted an elite UCI event since the Olympic Games in 2000, so we’ll be learning from other Australian events like the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans’ Road Race,” he said.
“We know it’s a change to the normal standard operating procedures of groups like the NSW Police, and we hope our work in showing them how we can run an event safely and efficiently will be a legacy for the road cycling community in NSW.
“The COVID pandemic has also become part of our clear and present reality. We have to plan around it and liaise with additional groups like NSW Health and Police,” added Taggart.