The hardest thing for me is to start writing. Actually sitting down behind the computer (again) after such a long day behind the computer… I’ve already compiled quite a few blogs in my head, but I haven’t (yet) transferred them to “paper”… I will I will 😊
Those who know me really well know what Spain means in my life. I spent this week in Madrid. The reason for my visit was business, namely the Omega homologation test for Olympic beach volleyball and soccer competition. Sounds complicated, I know, IT IS. This blog is not dedicated to Madrid and my work there, I just wanted to mention that after a long time I found the motivation to write right here, in Madrid, in my dear Spain. Spain has a special place in my heart. My soul is at “home” here.
Therefore, it is no coincidence that it was in Madrid that this wave of motivation hit me again. In addition, it is also a well-known fact that every time I am among people who work in sports, who are the key people behind sports events, conversations with them fill me with energy and motivation. I relate to them and their stories.
Alphas and Omegas of sports operations
People who are the alphas and omegas of sports, people who take care of key processes during competitions, people who are absolutely underappreciated. No, no, these are not political officials, but people who actually set the background and take care of the sporting event operations.
As important as the performance of athletes on the sports field is, the same applies to the performance around and behind the field. The background of sporting events is complex. Every sports event requires its own amount of work, and the specific process when we talk about the biggest international sports competitions is “next level”.
I promised an insight into the background of my work. Well, let’s see.
Each competition begins with the selection of a local organizer, host, location and date. This is also a process in itself, which in our world is called “site visit” or “site inspection”. In most cases, the site visit is carried out by the employees of the international federation and the event manager, who is also supposed to coordinate this specific event. I have already done a lot of inspections myself, the most important and for me the greatest honor was the inspection in Russia, which is supposed to be the host of the 2022 World Championships. We all know how badly that ended.
How do these site visits actually work?
We check hotels, sports halls, other support complexes, distances between key points (airport, hotel, hall), check capacities, fly over plan layouts to remind the organizer of the organization’s expectations and requirements, etc. Nothing is decided on the spot during these tours. All important factors are reviewed and evaluated, we transfer information, findings and give our opinion, and then all decisions are made by the responsible persons at the headquarters of the international federation. The “result” of the tours can be the confirmation of the location, the organizer or a change, the search for new options.
Fun (not so much) fact; such visits are no longer carried out in this form after covid, now the “construction” of the visits is more aimed at technology, the capabilities of the hall from the point of view of production, TV, etc. I am sure that my comment in this new way is not necessary. Anyone who knows me knows what my views are, I have always been and will always be on the side of teams, athletes and protect the competition. Sports. Everything around sports should be subordinated to sports and should offer support to it and not the other way around. Not saying production doesn’t matter, cause it does. BIG TIME!
Well, to continue, once the organizer is chosen, the location, the date confirmed, the negotiations continue between the organizer and the international federation, each doing their part to ensure the norms for the specific competition. In theory, this should be the case. 😊
In the process, partners and suppliers who are key to the implementation of the competition are selected: the competition system operator (in the vernacular: record keeping, results keepers), challange system supplier, media operator (TV rights), marketing agency + material suppliers (slightly less important for the actual implementation of the sports part of the competition).
To make it easier to understand: bigger the competition = more suppliers and more partners = more control.
When the moment comes to carry out the competition, all key groups gather at the location -5 days before the start of the competition. The event managers and technical delegates are first present at the location. Once we have all the key people at the location, the “external” partners (chosen by the international federation) join the work of the “local organizer” and together they set up everything necessary for the start of the competition. In parallel, the event managers and technical delegates check the sports and partnerships part: TD checks everything related to the teams, EM checks all the requests of the federation and partners. In an ideal scenario (which is very rare), all points are connected the day before the competition. In all other scenarios (which are very common), we solve such and other complications at the last minute. In my experience, much of this complication is unnecessary.
When we talk about experienced organizers, it’s a power play, because in principle they don’t want to meet all the demands, to show that “the IF can’t force them”. Huh… the effect is completely different than they might imagine.
In the case of average organizers, with some experience, who have not yet progressed and continue to operate in the same way despite obvious shortcomings, … what can I say … the comfort zone it can be really comfortable. 😊
In the case of new organizers, without experience, I think that they should have a little more support throughout the entire preparation process, because they may not understand well all the requirements or they don’t understand why “their aspect” might not be optimal for such a competition. I myself have dealt with new organizers who were absolutely ready to learn and upgrade their knowledge and with those who are simply “deaf and blind” when it comes to accepting suggestions and constructive criticism.
When we talk about the global level of organization, so many competitions have already taken place, so many organizers have changed, that we all know exactly what IS acceptable and what is NOT. So, as already stated, certain complications are completely unnecessary and could easily be avoided. PS: this is spit in my own bowl, make no mistake. I do not point the finger at others, I admit that even our work is not effective enough in certain cases.
First match aka dress rehearsal
In principle, the first match is a kind of a “general rehearsal”. Despite the fact that we have official dress rehearsals before the start of the competition, they are quite chaotic. They’re usually put into the timeline before all the key people are on location and all the equipment isn’t ready, when kids are playing instead of teams, when referees treat them as a necessary evil, … it’s all pretty useless, to be completely honest. In certain cases, when we actually have a complete team on site, with all the necessary equipment and scenarios, these generals really give the first real impression of how things work and we immediately see when and where improvements are needed.
When the competition starts, all the processes are actually started, there are no more make-up exams, so every day is unique in its own way, but at the same time it is a daily routine. During the day, we arrange/resolve urgent matters and possible complications, and at the end of the day we review all the minuses and pluses, discuss them, find the source and come up with a plan to resolve it by the next day. We also highlight the big pluses and immediately “mark” them as learning examples for the future. And that’s how every day goes by.
It’s not that we just travel and watch the top matches from the front row 😊 we actually make sure that everything runs as it should and, when it doesn’t, we’re responsible for putting things in the norm. Each organizational structure is hierarchical, each working group has its own team leader who reports to the event manager and the technical delegate. All operational matters are the responsibility of the event manager, and all sporting technical matters are the responsibility of the technical delegate. This is also the procedure in case of major complications and the potential need to make serious decisions. Throughout the competition, event managers and technical delegates remain in contact with the international federation, which of course carefully watches over the event.
Nope, not over yet.
Each competition is “reported”; remarks are done on strengths and weaknesses. These reports should help with next steps, next competitions, or just as a “record” of that specific competition, the organizer. (Reports are not intended to punish and reprimand, as some organizers believe.)
Sometimes it’s very difficult and we struggle with complications throughout the competition, but sometimes things run really nice, smoothly and we can REALLY enjoy good matches.
I hope that the first “walk” through the background was at least partially understandable, before moving on to more detailed tasks, descriptions, it is good to understand the bigger picture.
Hasta pronto 😊