The mane event

Large cultural and sporting events do far more than just provide opportunities to be part of an exciting and thrilling experience

Will you be one of the thousands of people across Australia (and overseas) glued to TV screens tomorrow at 3pm? Or perhaps even lucky enough to be at the Melbourne Cup in person? This major event, held every year since 1861, is part of Australia's national identity. In fact, the very phrase "the race that stops a nation" is trademarked by the Victoria Racing Club.

Just like the rich tradition of rural and city-based agricultural shows, Anzac Day commemorations, and of course the annual New Year's Eve fireworks displays across the nation, large cultural and sporting events do far more than just provide opportunities to be part of an exciting and thrilling experience. Students of event management will tell you that the impacts of events like these can be grouped into three areas: economic, social/cultural and environmental.

So what does this all mean? If we think about the Melbourne Cup, for instance, from an economic perspective, we know that it generates a lot of money. And this isn't just from media coverage and sponsorship deals (remember, its official name is the Emirates Melbourne Cup). Thousands of people travel to Melbourne for the event, generating business for airlines and hotels. And think of all those Melbourne Cup lunches that bring extra trade to countless bars, clubs and restaurants, not just in Melbourne, but across the nation. Not to mention retail stores and milliners.

And this doesn't just happen in Australia. When I was working overseas, many Australian expatriates would stop work to proudly gather in front of a screen.

Like it or not, Australia is a sporting nation that likes to make a bet. We like to be part of the atmosphere, to talk and read about it at backyard social gatherings with family and friends. And we love to celebrate the achievements of our favourite teams, both major and local. Additionally, the focus of the Melbourne Cup includes horses, animals that represent our colonial history. The Cup reminds us of this heritage and provides an opportunity to share our collective pride in Australian horse success.

Finally, more and more event organisers now pay special attention to the environmental impact of events. For the Melbourne Cup, organisers have to consider rubbish collection, minimisation and removal. They have to provide more environmentally friendly ways of getting to and from the event safely. And they have to consider noise pollution issues, crowd movement and how this impacts on the local community and environment. It's a lot to juggle.

So, what will you be doing tomorrow at 3pm?