London leads list of Global Sports Cities ahead of Los Angeles and New York

November 30 2023

London, United Kingdom, was named as the leading Global Sports City of 2023 ahead of two cities from the United States of America, Los Angeles and New York. Olympic host city for the 2020 Olympic Games, hosted in 2021, was Tokyo in fourth place followed by the host city for the Olympic Games in 2024, Paris, in fifth.

London leads list of Global Sports Cities ahead of Los Angeles and New York

The second edition of the Global Sports Cities Index was launched at the 2023 International Forum on Sport and Urban Development in Shanghai, China.

The forum was hosted by the Shanghai University of Sport and was opened by the President of the university, Dr Lijuan Mao, alongside Mr Bing Li, second-level inspector of the Foreign Liaison Department of the General Administration of Sport of China and Mr Wenhua Luo, Deputy Director of Shanghai Municipal Sport Bureau.

The theme for the forum was Sport Cities of the Future and the forum opened with the launch of the 2023 Global Sports Cities Index developed and presented by Dr Dongfeng Liu, Professor and Dean of the Graduate School at Shanghai University of Sport.

The index aims to rank the top 50 sport cities from around the world using four dimensions:

  • Sport History and tradition of sport – Major sports events hosted and professional sports clubs achievement in the past
  • Hosting of major sports events in prior year – 278 Multisport Games, World and Continental Championships, World Series & Annual Events, featuring 50 sports
  • International media exposure and impact of sport – Media influence score through three aspects: search engines, social media, and mainstream media
  • Professional sports presence in each city – 218 professional sports clubs were counted including soccer, basketball, american football,  baseball, etc

During the presentation of the 2023 Global Sports Cities Index Dr Liu said: “Sports and urban development are very complementary. Importantly, I need to note that participation and popularisation of sport is really the precondition for the building of a sports city. In particular, this is much more important for this country [China] than in the West, because sport has already been there, the lifestyle, activity in European countries or in the States.”

The professor added that in China, the focus of young people was still very much on their studies rather than sport.

The first edition of the index was published in 2022 and was based on sports events taking place in 2021. Thanks to the hosting of the delayed Olympic Games in 2020 Tokyo was named Global Sports City of 2022, followed by London and Los Angeles.

Arguably 2022 provided a better reflection of sport as more events started to return to normal after the pandemic and Beijing benefitted significantly by hosting the Winter Olympic Games rising 18 places, from 31st to 13th place.

Doha also saw a significant rise moving 10 places, from 16th to sixth mostly due to the hosting of the FIFA World Cup in 2022.


The top three

London, Los Angeles and New York all moved up one place from 2022 to 2023 and clearly demonstrate the value of having many top sporting teams based in their cities. London benefited from a host of major Premier League football clubs and major sports venues for cricket, rugby and tennis. Los Angeles and New York similarly benefit from the presence of teams from NFL (American Football), NBA (Basketball), MLB (Baseball) and MLS (Soccer) along with many other sports and venues which are all included in the index.

The US rather unsurprisingly had a large presence reported in the index, with the country hosting professional sporting events almost daily. Fellow cities to be included in the 2023 Global Sports Cities Index in the US included Chicago, Miami, Dallas, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Denver, Indianapolis and San Francisco.

Cities across the UK also demonstrated strongly within the criteria, with Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Glasgow also appearing in the rankings. Cities representing Germany included Berlin, Hamburg and Dortmund, while Sydney and Melbourne were the only Australian representatives in the list. Similarly, Auckland was the only city from New Zealand to be mentioned as part of the index in 50th.

Other countries represented in the index include Brazil, Switzerland, Italy, Canada, Spain and the United Arab Emirates.

Overall, 21 cities across nine countries from Europe were featured, 15 cities across North America, six cities in four countries in Asia, three cities representing two countries in Oceania, two cities across two countries in the Middle East, two cities in one country in South America, and one city from one country in Africa.

Singapore moved up to round off the top 10 on the international rankings, thanks to a return to hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix. The motorsport spectacle had previously been cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

Shanghai – the host city of the forum – dropped nine places to 47th, mostly attributed to the forced cancellations of events due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to a weak performance in terms of hosting sporting events and subsequent media influence.


The 2023 Mainland China Sports Cities Index

Additionally, Shanghai University of Sport and the International Association of Sports Economists released a 2023 Mainland China Sports Cities Index. Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou topped the rankings, followed by Guangzhou, Jinan and Chengdu. This index utilised a similar criteria to the 2023 Global Sports Cities Index, but included sports participation in the mix. There were 38 cities represented in total.

Hangzhou held the 2022 Asian Games across September and October this year, after it was postponed, while Chengdu hosted the summer FISU World University Games to boost its position in the rankings.

The International Forum featured presentations and panel discussions from a group of leading academics and industry practitioners.

Dr Joel Maxcy from Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA, opened up the presentations with a focus on ‘Sport Facilities and Economic Development in the USA’. Dr Maxcy noted how little evidence there was for economic benefits arising from the presence of major sports teams based in US cities and the hosting of major sporting events such as the Olympic Games. Dr Maxcy commented on how much of the benefit for hosting teams and events may happen on a localised level, or take the form of intangible social benefits.

Industry expert Mike Laflin, Chief Executive and Founder of Global Sustainable Sport (GSS), presented on ‘The Sustainable Sport City – The Way Forward’. Mr Laflin based his presentation of the seven Sustainable Pillars of Sport that have been developed by Global Sustainable Sport and talked about how a sports city can assess its sustainability through the GSS framework. GSS is currently running a global survey on sport and sustainability, and Laflin presented the survey and what is important for a city to focus on in becoming a sustainable sport city of the future.

Golf against the City

The final presentation was made by Dr Geoff Dickson from La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, who changed his presentation to ‘Golf against the City: The Battle for Inner and Outer Space’. Dr Dickson, a keen golfer himself with a handicap of 2, talked about the stress between golf courses and the increasing urbanisation around major cities.

During the pandemic, many golf courses were closed and switched to leisure areas and now post-pandemic many cities in Australia are questioning their role in the inner city. Dr Dickson argued that golf faced being moved to the peri-urban space outside a city, losing many of the benefits of local presence. Dr Dickson gave examples from two courses in Melbourne and one from Sydney, where the focus is more on an either/or approach from many urban developers, rather than a mixed usage approach like the one adopted by St Andrews in Scotland, where there is no golf on Sunday so that families can enjoy the course for leisure activities.

Dr ShuShu Chen from the University of Birmingham joined the speakers for a panel session on ‘Sport Cities for All: Best Practices’, and the forum took a more Chinese focus in the afternoon with panel sessions on ‘City Planning and Race Planning’ and the ‘Role of Sport in Urban Renewal’.

Shanghai University of Sport plans to publish its Global Sports Cities Index on an annual basis and also hopes to extend it to Top 100 in 2024.

For further information on the Global Sports Cities Index, contact Dr Dongfeng Liu at the Shanghai University of Sport.

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