MBE who shaped Leeds's sporting landscape receives honorary degree
26 July 2016 - Kelly Scotney
Peter Smith, former Manager of the Leeds Sports Development Team at Leeds City Council (LCC) and the operational lead behind many of the city’s great sporting events, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Sport from Leeds Beckett University on Tuesday 26 July.
Speaking about receiving the award, Peter said: “It really is something very special to me. I suppose, like everybody, you want to do your best at work, and it’s really appreciated when that effort is recognised by receiving an honorary award.”
Originally from Derby, Peter relocated to Leeds in 1971 to attend Leeds Beckett’s predecessor institution, the Carnegie School of Physical Education.
Graduating in 1975 with a BEd (Hons) in Physical Education, Peter spent several years working as a PE Teacher in Leeds and the Middle East before joining LCC as a sports facilitator, and later becoming Manager of the Leeds Sports Development Team.
In this role Peter was responsible for organising several stand-out city events, including: overseeing the Leeds element of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games; the annual Leeds Marathon and its successor the half-marathon; the Leeds city Sky Ride; the Rugby Union World Cup in 2015; and the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ which laid the foundations for The Tour de Yorkshire cycle race. Now in its second year, the event is fast becoming one of the biggest cycle races in the UK, attracting some of the world’s elite cycle teams.
Speaking about his career highlight, Peter said: “I guess when you organise big events that you want the public to come to you’re never sure if anybody will turn out. So to suddenly see thousands of people line the street in Headingley for the Olympic Torch Relay, and the same for the Tour de France, that’s the moment when you suddenly go ‘wow, it’s worked.’”
Peter has also led on a number of major facility development projects in Leeds, including establishing The Aquatics Centre at the John Charles Centre for Sport.
Now retired, Peter remains Chair of the West Yorkshire Sport Management Board and is a Board member of the Yorkshire Sport Foundation and Sport Leeds.
When asked what advice he would offer graduating students looking to forge a career in events management, Peter said; “Stick with it. Managing events and particularly sports events is a real challenge. It isn’t an easy environment to work in or get into. You must go in with your eyes open and an awareness of the unsociable hours and that it is a lot of hard work over a short period of time. It’s not always a success: you can be there when things go wrong but stay with it. Look and analyse the skills that you have and how best they can fit into an events environment - there are lots of opportunities.”
Leeds Beckett University Chancellor, Sir Bob Murray CBE, said: “Peter’s career has seen him lead on the hugely successful work for the city at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ in Yorkshire and a number of other major sporting events.
“He has also served at regional and national level on sports boards and governing bodies and has played a key role in shaping sports and sports development in the city which has afforded staff, students and alumni of Leeds Beckett the opportunity to support and work in varying roles, gaining invaluable experience and life skills.”