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Photo: Aljaž Čad

DEBUT WRC APPEARANCE FOR CROATIA

Whenever circumstances allow, I always attend grand events hosted in our region. I have always been interested in the phenomena of such events, while my professional deformation is most often satisfied by analysing the organisational part of an event.

As a phenomenon or better yet, a brand, WRC (World Rally Championship) is undoubtedly alongside competitions such as F1. I must admit, though, that I have been a devotee of WRC ever since I was a child when I first smelled high-octane fuel at the rally Saturnus, which took place near my hometown. Thus, when such a spectacle is hosted in the region, it is logical that I will see it live, even though during current corona times, that is a rather logistical challenge. I spent the past weekend among the picturesque hills of Croatian Zagorje and the hidden valleys of Žumberak. Seeing it live is the only way to experience the race in its entirety. It is all about socialising with like-minded individuals, occasionally being astonished by peculiar habits, and getting lost among the stages. Above all, it is about passionately cheering and admiring the skills and knowledge of the best drivers in the world.

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Photo: Aljaž Čad
Without a doubt, WRC is an exceptional project in terms of organisation. The organisers have announced that the media promotion alone is worth 40 million euros. Such a promotion is certainly appreciated before the start of the tourist season. The branding of Zagreb was omnipresent and hard to miss. Croatia’s premier WRC event was further impressive since it was organised during the corona crisis. To execute such a demanding event during the current conditions is an exceptional feat. After two days of seeing the best of the best, we can confirm that Daniel Šaškin and the entire team behind the spectacle did an incredible job. The success formula also includes countless volunteers. Among them, numerous Slovenian judges, who were proud to cooperate and with whom I had the chance to chat next to the track. I sincerely hope that Croatia becomes a regular name on the WRC calendar. In my honest opinion, it deserves that.

The event was also a relief for Croatian hoteliers. After a long time, the hotels where the rally took place and the majority of Zagreb’s hotel rooms, were booked. The entire show includes a team of 1200 participants, who spent the whole week in Zagreb. They were accompanied by around 1500 journalists and reporters, who followed the event online or in person.

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Photo: Aljaž Čad
I was personally astonished by the final stage in Kumrovec. It seems as if this charming place was created for such events. The megalomaniac projects from the times of Marshal Tito enabled logistics, which the organisers, unfortunately, could not take advantage of this year due to the corona crisis. Nevertheless, the gigantic car park from bygone days proved to be a major advantage. The combination of the ethnographic museum and the spaciousness of public space seems to be a brilliant mix for mega-events of such proportions. It is as if Kumrovec had been created for spectacles, and I would gladly stay there a day more if the circumstances and the programme allowed.

Needles to say, the point of the event is the race itself. The Kumrovec stage is ideal for spectating, as it connects neck-breaking sections and technically demanding corners. I can imagine huge crowds in the hills of Zagorje in the future, even though we were in large numbers this year. It appears that the number of attendees surprised the organisers themselves. The participants were supposed to keep a distance of two-and-a-half metres and wear protective masks. Yet, that was hardly the case, as can be seen in the photos. On the other hand, I must admit that I have not been so near “the heroes of speed” for quite some time. The positive atmosphere represents capital for the future, regardless of the sometimes loose crowd behaviour.

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Photo: Aljaž Čad
wrc-rally-croatia-2021-kumrovec-stage
Photo: Aljaž Čad

“A clear message was sent to the world this weekend – Croatia can organise events of such proportions safely and reliably”

Such events are also an incredibly positive sign for organisers of global and regional events. A whole sea of professionals took their part in organising the event and proved that they are masters of their respectable profession. I met several of them in person and congratulated them for their efforts. Furthermore, the news of their achievement is quickly spreading and will have groundbreaking effects on the breakthrough of the entire regional meetings industry. A clear message was sent to the world this weekend – Croatia can organise events of such proportions safely and reliably. The distinguished WRC brand is extremely respected, and Croatian “rally event” professionals rose to the occasion. In a way, the event is a test of quality and an incredible reference.

Another positive aspect of the event, is in my opinion, the decision to make one of the main partners of the event the Zagreb Tourist Board. Although I do not know of all the details of their investment into the event, I am sure that every invested euro will be repaid. Moreover, the brand successfully promoted the lesser-known surroundings of Zagreb. After returning from a petrol-fueled weekend, I look forward to a more tranquil trip to Žumberak and Samobor in the future. If you have not heard of these Croatian gems before, quickly check them out.

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Photo: Aljaž Čad

In the following days, we will write about what event organisers can learn from WRC, as the competition is one of the best examples of how to create events during the corona crisis.

A benchmark for all doubters is a case example from WRC Portugal 2019. At the moment, the details of the Croatian Rally are unknown.

– 836 million viewers online
– 4.3 million spectators online
– 67 million EUR – the economic return of the race through the media, of indirect impact
– 73 million EUR – the direct expenditure of all attendees of the rally

Source: Automóvel Club de Portugal (ACP)


Find out more at WRC’s official website