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A comparative socio-economic impact analysis of the 2010 Comrades Marathon on the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

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Sport has always been a significant component of society but is now becoming an increasingly significant component of the economy. Recent years have seen the staging of hallmark and mega-events in sport as increasingly important in the development of a tourist product centered on large cities (Jones, 2001). Studies that assess the impact of hallmark and mega-events often focus on the economic impact of the host economy. Such events are often rationalised as an economic initiative of the host governing authority. This study aspires to estimate the economic and social impacts of a large one-day international sporting event viz. the 2010 Comrades Marathon on the economies of two cities viz. Pietermaritzburg and Durban. A secondary objective is to demonstrate the value of such a major sporting event to the regional and provincial governments as well as formal and informal businesses in the said cities. This study also addresses the social impact of the event on the residents and communities in KwaZulu-Natal. According to Matheson (2006) the role of sports in a society such as South Africa in driving the developmental agenda cannot be over-emphasised. He stated that sporting events do not only play an important economic role but are also useful catalysts in forging social cohesion and nation building. This study also seeks to investigate the socio-economic impact of the 2010 FIFA World Cup that was hosted in South Africa on the Comrades Marathon. Durban was one of the nine cities that hosted games whilst Pietermaritzburg was utilised as a training venue by one of the international teams. It is important to note that the first World Cup match was played eleven days after the Comrades Marathon was run. The study also seeks to investigate the regional origins of visitors to the event and the relationship between the visitors both national and international and the expenditure generated at the event. Durban and Pietermaritzburg like other key cities in the world are and will increasingly be confronted by two vital and related challenges. Firstly, there is need to successfully compete in a universal economy characterised by increased competition and globalisation. Secondly, there is need to eliminate poverty and address issues of inequality and marginalisation. Thus, the Comrades Marathon, as a hallmark sporting event, can be seen as a primary driver to create jobs and contribute to competitiveness. The organisation of major sporting events is a crucial time in the lives of large cities. It provides them with an opportunity to promote themselves, their energy and creativity and, increasingly, their competitiveness. However, it also involves exchanging experiences in this field so as to control the effects, minimise possible risks and guarantee positive results as far as possible. Measuring the effect of an event on the development of a city is a complex and demanding task. This exercise spreads over a variety of different spheres viz. the economy, society, tourism, public finance, organisation capacity, infrastructures, public confidence and international reputation. Much of the analysis in this study was undertaken using a questionnaire survey to interview the key interest groups at the registration venues in both the cities prior to the event and on race day at the finish venue in Durban. The data collected was then analysed using a specialist statistical software package viz. SPSS to calculate the additional expenditure in the host cities. In certain instances, face-to-face interviews were employed to collect the data. The questionnaire requested data on places of residence, the age, gender, occupations, income, spending patterns, features of the cities, unsavoury incidents experienced and the types of activities that the population found attractive. The population comprised of foreign runners and supporters, domestic runners and supporters that reside in other provinces of South Africa, residents of the cities, stall holders at the registration venues, representatives of the sponsors of the event, the organizer of the Bonitas Comrades Experience, vendors, the organisers of the event and representatives of selected shopping malls and hotels in the cities. A truly great sports event is an event where the impact and spin-offs for all those involved viz. the organisers, the community within which the event takes place, the participants and possibly the government, is a positive one when clear benefit is acquired from the event. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) was used to analyse the data collected. The Chi-Square Test and the Analysis of Variance were applied in this study. The chi-square test was used to determine whether there is a significant difference between the expected frequencies and the observed frequencies in one or more categories. The ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) was used to analyse the differences between group means and their associated procedures. It provides a statistical test of whether or not the means of several groups are equal and is useful in comparing/testing three or more means i.e. groups or variables for statistical significance. The p-value of 0.001 that was computed revealed that there was a significant difference in terms of the racial groups amongst the respondents who resided in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. This can be attributed to the substantial increase in the number of participants and their supporters and family members that arrived in the cities because of the aggressive marketing campaign that the CMA had conducted both internationally and nationally and the fact that the 2010 FIFA World Cup was hosted by South Africa. The p-value regarding the income earned by the respondents was calculated to be 0.001 which showed that there was a significant difference in the income of the respondents who visited the registration venues in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The p-value of 0.8 revealed that there was no significant difference in the age categories of the respondents that resided in both the cities. A p-value of 0.001 confirmed that there was a significant difference in the items the respondents purchased in the cities. The p-value of 0.20 verified that there was no significant difference in the various types of accommodation establishments that the respondents utilized in both cities. The p-value of 0.001 indicated that there was a significant difference in the duration of stay of the respondents who resided in Durban and those who resided in Pietermaritzburg. The findings of this study revealed that a grand total of R130 978 314 was new income that was generated by the participants, their families and friends. This amount comprised of R110 340 612 that was generated in Durban and R20 637 702 in Pietermaritzburg. A closer examination of the amount generated in Durban showed that R93 397 920 was the average daily expenditure of the participants, their families and friends and that R16 942 692 was the expenditure spent on accommodation. The findings also revealed that of the total amount spent in Pietermaritzburg the sum of R16 283 266 was the average daily expenditure by the participants, their families and friends and R4 354 436 represented the expenditure spent by the afore-mentioned on accommodation. This bodes well for the event, the organisers and the Cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It must also be noted that the Comrades Marathon also brings additional intangible benefits for the local and South African fraternity. The event is also likely to have significant yet unquantifiable benefits for the local economy by presenting Durban and Pietermaritzburg in a positive light to the South African television audience and to its potential participants and their supporters. In addition to the quantifiable impacts related to the Comrades Marathon that was previously discussed, the event also engendered significant intangible benefits to the communities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in terms of lifestyle improvements. Examples of the intangible benefits are: • significant national and international exposure for the cities as sport fans who enjoyed their visits to the cities may return later thereby raising future tourist revenues • enhancing community pride, self-image, exposure, reputation and prestige associated with hosting a world-famous event and in this way creating a climate of optimism • enhancing the national and international image of the cities so that they become world-class cities and travel destinations • enhancing economic growth and ancillary private sector development spurred on by the operations and activities associated with the Comrades Marathon • providing assets in the cities e.g. the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban that can augment their world-class attractions, accommodations and international airport • increase in tourism • promoting the cultural diversity of the population in terms of race, ethnicity and religion • motivate the community to develop active healthy lifestyles and in so doing reduce absenteeism and increase productivity in the work place Furthermore, there is escalating evidence that the media coverage of the race has improved. Gerretsen (2006) reported that Tourism KZN confirmed that the race was viewed by millions because of the television coverage. It is envisaged that television viewers might decide to take a trip to the city at some time in the future based on what they see during the broadcast of the event. This is an exceptional way to showcase the province’s scenic beauty and the warmth and hospitality of its inhabitants. The potential of the Comrades Marathon to attract more visitors and for the visitors to stay longer is indicated by the number of visitors who expressed an interest in existing activities and/or attractions which are related to sport and recreation. The Comrades Marathon is an excellent example of a hallmark sporting event that attracts “outsiders” to the region and the cities. These tourists thus generate “new money” into the economies of the cities and the province.


Doctor of Philosophy in Sport Science. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Westville 2015.


Comrades Marathon--Economic aspects--South Africa--Durban., Comrades Marathon--Economic aspects--South Africa--Pietermaritzburg., Comrades Marathon--Social aspects--South Africa--Durban., Comrades Marathon--Social aspects--South Africa--Pietermaritzburg., Marathon running--South Africa., Theses--Sport science.