Charlotte Kirk Elkjær, a chief advisor for Aarhus Events, is hoping the Danish city can attract more top events in sports outside of sailing ©ITG

A key official in the running of The Ocean Race here has spoken of Aarhus’ quest to ensure it is "not only a sailing city" in its bid to stage further major events.

Charlotte Kirk Elkjær, a chief advisor at Aarhus Events, has taken on the role of stopover director at The Ocean Race which is being held in the Danish city for the first time.

Aarhus - which is Denmark’s biggest city outside of capital Copenhagen, has a rich history in hosting many international sailing events in Olympic and non-Olympic classes.

It also boasts the International Sailing Centre - a state-of-the-art facility which is home to the Danish Olympic sailing team.

In 2018, Aarhus staged the Sailing World Championships as well as hosting a fly-by as part of The Ocean Race which attracted 15,000 spectators.

Kirk Elkjær said holding a stopover for The Ocean Race had been top of the city’s event wish list since 2008.

"It takes some time before you are ready as we needed to educate and build the right facilities," Kirk Elkjær told insidethegames.

"The harbour front has changed a lot and now we are finally ready.

"After the fly-by in 2018, we realised that we are ready to apply for a full stopover so we did that straight after and then signed a contract in 2019.

The Ocean Race stopover director Charlotte Kirk Elkjær says it is a
The Ocean Race stopover director Charlotte Kirk Elkjær says it is a "dream come true" for Aarhus to host the around-the-world sailing event ©Peter Broegger

"Since then, we have been working on developing the event that we are in right now.

"It is definitely a dream come true."

Aarhus Events, which is part of the City of Aarhus, has been working closely with Sport Event Denmark to bring top sporting competitions to the city.

Over the past two decades, Aarhus has hosted many events in sports other than sailing including the 2013 Men’s European Volleyball Championship, 2014 European Men’s Handball Championships and the 2019 World Cross Country Championships.

It also staged major tournaments in badminton, dancesport and wakeboarding and played host to SportAccord in 2017.

"It is important for us to do other types of events but it is just that sailing really matches our infrastructure and the developments going on," said Kirk Elkjær.

"That has been our focus but we are working with Sport Event Denmark to make sure that we are not only a sailing city.

"We need to be more than that.

"I have to provide good experiences for the public, that’s what I am hired to do and to make sure we make growth and help existing event organisers here."

The VO65 and IMOCA fleet arrived in Aarhus on May 29 after completing the 4,000-mile fifth leg from Newport, Rhode Island in the United States.

Aarhus staged the 2019 World Cross Country Championships and is looking to attract similar events in the future ©Getty Images
Aarhus staged the 2019 World Cross Country Championships and is looking to attract similar events in the future ©Getty Images

About 300 boats carried more than 1,000 spectators as they watched the VO65 and IMOCA in-port races as part of The Ocean Race on Sunday (June 4).

Aarhus has also been holding pro-am races to build excitement for the departure for the sixth leg to The Hague in The Netherlands on Thursday (June 7).

"It is so important for us to bring people out on the water as that’s when you get that sense of the sport," said Kirk Elkjær.

"It is all about getting people to have a better relationship with the ocean.

"If they then get into kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddle or sailing that is great.

"When you have 11 event days and the boats go in for maintenance for the first four, we quickly realised that we needed to make some content for those days.

"We had a big schools programme so we chose partners that could work with kids during the weekdays.

"We also got the Ocean Race Summit, Business Summit and Youth Summit here and we needed to attract some target groups here that not normally see for these events.

"The in-port races are great because they go in and out and you see them in action even when you are on land.

"I am hopeful for good crowd [on Thursday].

"I know that all the followers from around Northern Europe are keen to be here."