4.1. Quantitative Analysis
The sample was chosen in a random manner, suggesting that the results could be representative of the entire population. Indeed, in such a dynamic situation of testing during the sports events, there were simply no other options. Full randomization was not possible.
illustrates the results of the Chi-Square Test. The first column displays the relevant question, as per the administered questionnaire. The number of observations drops to 805, because seven of the interviewed individuals preferred not to state their reasons for visiting Val di Fassa. Thus, the author did not have enough information to assign these subjects to one of the groups (residents, tourists, other stakeholders).
In the first question (Q1) “Did you know that the World Junior Alpine Ski Championships 2019, which involves 335 athletes from 56 countries, is taking place in Val di Fassa?”, the statistical analysis showed significant differences (Chi2 = 146.6, p <0.0001). In fact, for residents the positive response (YES) was 94.9% and the negative one (NO) 5.1%, while for the tourist category, the positive response (YES) was 64.6% and the negative one (NO) 35.4%.
shows that the three groups have different knowledge and perceptions regarding the event. If the p
-value is smaller than the standard significance level of 5%, we cannot accept the null hypothesis that the parameters (means) are equal. In particular, compared to the other groups, residents seem to assign less importance to the landscape as a reason for liking the event. This result could be somewhat expected, given that residents know and like (or dislike) their territory regardless of the event. Interestingly, they appear to value the organization, the people and the athletes more than the other stakeholders. Question two (Q2)—“What did you like most about the JWC2019?”—indicated statistical differences. The answers “Landscapes” (Chi2 = 13.1, p
= 0.001), “The Organization” (Chi2 = 10.5, p
= 0.005), “The People” (Chi2 = 8.2, p
= 0.016) and “The athletes” (Chi2 = 7.8, p
= 0.020) showed a different distribution of percentages.
illustrates the results of the Kruskal–Wallis Test, based on Likert scales which comprise ordinal data subject to a ranking in which 5 is more than 4, and 4 is more than 3, etc. The three groups have statistically significant different perceptions about the event’s main features and the reasons for its success. In fact, the second panel of Table 5
shows that each item is statistically significant (p
-value smaller than the standard 5% significance level), meaning that the three groups present differences related to the median.
Regarding Questions 3 (Q3) and 4 (Q4), respectively, “How appropriate is each definition of Val di Fassa?” and “How appropriate is each definition of the JWC 2019?”, some data present p-values showing different assessments between stakeholders of the definitions given for the tourist destination and the event. In Q3, the definitions “It is unique” and “It has friendly people” present some differences in the respective responses (Chi2 = 9.7, p = 0.008) and (Chi2 = 22.6, p = 0.000). In Q4, the definitions “It is entertaining”, “It is thrilling”, “It is international”, “It is fair/well regulated”, “It is high class” present differences in the respective responses (Chi2 = 20.6, p = 0.000), (Chi2 = 15.2, p = 0.001), (Chi2 = 34.7, p = 0.000), (Chi2 = 16.4, p = 0.000), (Chi2 = 11.2, p = 0.004). While the differences in the medians are minimal, they need to be examined further to understand the dynamics that led the residents to make different evaluations.
For Questions 5–8—(Q5) “How satisfied were you with the World Junior Alpine Ski Championships 2019 in Val di Fassa?”, (Q6) “Would you recommend your friends and family to follow live high-level sports events in Val di Fassa (Alpine Skiing World Cup, Cross Country World Cup etc…)?”, (Q7) “Will you attend other live events (Alpine Skiing World Cup, Cross Country Skiing World Cup…) in Val di Fassa?” and (Q8) “Did your visit to Val di Fassa leave you with the desire to come back in the future?”—the p-value shows that there are differences in the responses from the various stakeholders. The median of the responses (for which a Likert scale was used) from the stakeholder groups is statistically different.
The author concludes that residents do indeed differ from tourists and other stakeholders in terms of their perceptions regarding the event and its strong points. When it comes to perceptions related to the territory, the three groups do not seem to have systematically different opinions.
4.2. Analysis of the Focus Group Interviews
The focus groups involved only the residents as specified in paragraph 3.2.2. The main results are determined at the end of Section 4.2.4
., based on the issues that emerged after the analysis and coding.
To facilitate understanding of the subsequent narrative, the author has summarized the most significant results of the analysis in Table 6
, showing the primary and secondary categories, formed through the coding in the analysis of the focus groups, as well as the main themes that have been determined (tourist destination, small-scale sports event, stakeholders).
4.2.1. The Tourist Destination
In the focus groups, a word cloud was used in Figure 3
a to explain the results. We see that landscape and beauty stand out alongside concepts such as well-being and nature. However, terms such as sport, tourism, snow and culture are also included, which point to an awareness of the mountain territory and its vocation in hospitality and in offering active holidays, given the morphology of the territory and the infrastructures with which it is equipped. This can be better understood by providing some quotations that widen the considerations emerging from the word cloud, and by introducing those we have codified and can be considered sub-themes:
AWARENESS AND EXPECTATIONS
This subgroup focused on what residents make of their home territory, the most salient characteristics that define it and their expectations of the future. The assessments were sentimental but also objective, based on concrete aspects.
Be a Community
“We must say thanks to the abilities of individuals and small groups but it would be better to have a valley involvement. With the potential of the Val di Fassa we could have the world here.”
“Perhaps we need to pay more attention to the environment and the territory, not because we didn’t guarantee enough in the case of the JWC2019, but because in the future environmental sustainability will be increasingly important.”
“I feel proud of my territory, very much and I saw that in volunteering there were people from all villages, there was no parochialism. This is a very very positive thing.”
In the previous subgroup, the comments were more from the heart, expressing a sense of belonging to a community. In this sub-group, however, the comments were characterized by a sense of realism, and an evaluation of the return generated by a sports event in terms of the region’s image, which can be perceived in different ways.
Culture and Linguistic Minority
“I think it is a point that we have more thanks to the linguistic minority. It is a strength that we must exploit.”
“I really enjoyed seeing them, more beautiful to see young people having fun than seeing more famous athletes.”
“Thanks to TV images and organizational success we have certainly gained in credibility and improved the reputation.”
4.2.2. The Small-Scale Sports Event (JWC2019)
The focus groups also tackled the issue of stakeholders in the event. Figure 3
b shows the keywords that emerged from the interviewees. The emotional aspect linked to the JWC2019 as directly lived by the residents, leads to the emergence of overwhelming themes such as: Youth, competitions and promotion. These themes are also evident in the following quotations which are organized in logical groupings. In Figure 3
c, which features the words considered by the interviewees as “must haves”, when compared to generic sports events, we see that the promotional aspect remains while organization, volunteering and objectives emerge together with territory and its own development.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Based on the large corpus of literature, sports events can have many different interpretations and, above all, different parameters to evaluate their effectiveness. In this section, the interviewed residents give their personal point of view on the best and worst aspects of this particular event that took place in their area.
“I didn’t follow much, but many people told me of a great success of the organization from the beginning up to all the involvement of the volunteers.”
“I noticed that both competition sites have structure limits and are not suitable for the World Cup.”
In this group of sub-themes, the interviewees highlighted their impressions of the values that find expression in a sports event. These include both material values and intangible values, as well as positive and negative values such as envy or admiration.
Sport = Positive Message
“... In my opinion it is functional for the life of the valley to organize sports events because sport is an important asset.”
“There is a great desire in the Valley to do something great. We have always been suffocated by the levels of events of our neighbors and competitors Val Badia and Val Gardena.”
Sport = Promotion
“Communication and TV have made the difference. They have promoted the territory worldwide.“
It was important in this part of the discussion to address all the possible nuances of what is considered the event’s legacy. Similarly, it is interesting to understand whether a return is perceived in the short or long term, who or what will benefit most from the effects of the event, whether the staging of the event is considered positively at least in the short term and whether its organization as such represents a value beyond the economic aspect as well as many other aspects that touch upon the social fabric and the environment.
“This world championship certainly will have a very long-term but also short-term image return.”
“In my opinion there was no return because few knew there was such an important event. Those who had a greater advantage were the athletes and the technicians.“
This sub-theme measures the respondents’ views about the future and their expectations and dreams. The discussion here also focused on future challenges, and more important events, even including the Olympic Games.
Mega Events and Expectations
“Everyone thinks something bigger will come in the future. We certainly want to have something globally.”
“If there is a continuity the thing works but if it is an isolated event and an end in itself it leaves nothing.”
4.2.3. The Stakeholders (Residents)
The topic of stakeholders is central to the present study. Figure 3
d shows the main stakeholders identified by the respondents in relation to the JWC2019. These include various bodies that manage the destination’s policies: The municipalities, the community, the tourist office. They also refer to other protagonists such as sponsors, or bodies more specifically related to the world of winter sports. Surprisingly, the volunteers are mentioned only on the periphery, whereas they were considered one of the top words in Figure 3
c, indicating the “must haves”. In the case of the JWC2019, the volunteers were therefore considered important but not as stakeholders. In the discussion, the theme of volunteering was addressed several times. In the word clouds and the focus group discussions, no one ever considered the residents as stakeholders.
One of the most interesting focus group discussions explored the methods adopted by a sports event organizing committee in approaching and managing the stakeholders. The majority expressed a preference for an inclusive and upfront modality, where most stakeholders are informed and involved both in the decision-making phases as well as the other phases of the organizational process.
“I would look for a comparison with everyone because even if one of these stakeholders say we are obliged to participate, then it could negatively influence the event.”
“The words only create wind. So you let more people talk about who doesn’t understand anything and less and finish it.”
“I think we should always seek dialogue with everyone, especially with those you hope can work with you. I don’t think the decision taken from above could work.“
This sub-theme likewise sparked a lively debate about the returns generated by an event and whether the rewards should go to a single and specific stakeholder or to the valley and the whole community. This second option seemed to prevail even though “community” did not feature as a stakeholder in the word cloud.
“It seems to me a very transversal, contained return but that has touched and given a bit of benefit to everyone.”
“I believe that ski clubs have also benefited a lot from the growth of technicians and children... Also in relation to the national and international federation they have a great event in the curriculum and they are ready to do other great events as well.“
4.2.4. Outcome of the Focus Groups Discussion
In the focus groups exploring the residents’ perceptions of the small-scale sports event, many positive effects were acknowledged. Many respondents suggest a bottom-up approach in managing stakeholders in small-scale sports events similar to JWC2019, considering this the only way to achieve full community involvement. Moreover, they expressed the view that the main return from the event should not be attributed to a single stakeholder but to the community as a whole and to the territorial socio-economic system. This was seen not only as a fact with respect to the event being studied, but also as an expectation among all the interviewees for future events. The residents also state that the organizers of small-scale sports events should adopt a clear strategy from the start to identify and involve all interested stakeholders in the event.
There is absolutely no doubt that the sustainability problem is important for the future and, in the focus group discussion, it appeared as a “must” among the keywords in Figure 3
c. For some residents, sustainability will be a key element in the future. When the community is involved by the event organizers, it tends to favor the sustainability of the community itself through collective objectives. In this case, the residents are fully aware of living in an extraordinary environment and a precious tourist destination, but they are equally aware that this is a precarious balance. It is evident that they feel the need to do something, but do not really know how to tackle the issue and, above all, who should take responsibility.
The potential of sports events in terms of the return for a destination is very clear. However, the implications that a sports event has for the whole community’s quality of life are equally clear to residents, who hold the view that, hosting several small-scale sports events could bring greater benefits than hosting larger, more impactful events in the area.