WORLD CUP, AHOY!

The var­i­ous sport­ing event man­age­ment ex­perts who gath­ered at Josoor In­sti­tute's ‘In­tro­duc­tion to Run­ning Ma­jor Events' weighed in on var­i­ous is­sues rang­ing from pre­par­ing a win­ning bid to de­liv­er­ing a safe and se­cure event.

Qatar Today - - INSIDE THIS ISSUE - BY AYSWARYA MURTHY

The var­i­ous sport­ing event man­age­ment ex­perts who gath­ered at Josoor In­sti­tute's "In­tro­duc­tion to Run­ning Ma­jor Events" weighed in on is­sues rang­ing from pre­par­ing a win­ning bid to de­liv­er­ing a safe and se­cure event.

"More of­ten than not, it's the me­dia, not the pub­lic, which de­cides the suc­cess or fail­ure of an event."

NIGEL RUSH­MAN

Founder, Rush­mans

While the de­bate about Qatar be­ing al­lowed to host the World Cup rages on out­side, within the coun­try there is a quiet and de­ter­mined progress on knowl­edge ac­cu­mu­la­tion. The cre­den­tials of the speak­ers in­vited to the two-day lec­ture se­ries on pre­par­ing for ma­jor sport­ing events, some of whom were top names be­hind the most suc­cess­ful and cel­e­brated of sport­ing ven­tures of re­cent times, em­phases goes to show Qatar's com­mit­ment to learn from the best and im­ple­ment those lessons to live up to its Ex­pect Amaz­ing cam­paign. We had a chat on the side­lines with a very en­gag­ing speaker with a deep con­nec­tion to the FIFA 2022 World Cup bid – Nigel Rush­man of Rush­mans which was be­hind Qatar's win­ning bid..

From bid to kick­off

Nigel Rush­man is a veteran of many a mega-sport­ing event. With his firm spe­cial­is­ing in sev­eral ver­ti­cals like me­dia ser­vices, ac­cred­i­ta­tion, safety and se­cu­rity, staffing, etc., Rush­man has been part of some of the big­gest sports tour­na­ments of the past decade, of­ten as a con­sul­tant to bid­ding coun­tries (as in the case of Qatar) and some­times de­liv­er­ing end-to-end so­lu­tions, like in the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies, where he was con­tracted as the event di­rec­tor and­was in charge of almost ev­ery as­pect of de­liv­ery of the megacrick­et­ing spec­ta­cle.

The first or­der of business for an or­gan­i­sa­tion com­mit­tee after win­ning a bid is ze­ro­ing down on its host­ing strat­egy, ac­cord­ing to Rush­man. Qatar, post 2010, would have sat down and taken a long hard look at how it's go­ing to go about host­ing the cup within the guide­lines and reg­u­la­tions laid down by FIFA and in­tro­spect on its event man­age­ment ca­pa­bil­i­ties with re­spect to all the spe­cific func­tional ar­eas and ser­vices. With this in place, it would have gone ahead to call in the ex­per­tise of sport­ing pro­fes­sion­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions ei­ther to help with the plan­ning or train their own peo­ple. It looks like Qatar, with more lead time than any other coun­try in the past, is opt­ing for a com­bi­na­tion of the two.

“Young peo­ple in Qatar [out­side the Supreme Com­mit­tee] don't want to go to the other end of the world and to learn the event man­age­ment business,” Rush­man says. “They'd much rather be trained by in­sti­tutes like Josoor.”

“There are a lot of spe­cial­ist agen­cies and we can only sur­vive by op­er­at­ing glob­ally,” says Rush­man whose team, which has

num­bered be­tween 50 and 2,000 in the past, has pres­ence in sev­eral far-flung coun­tries like the UK, Monaco, Qatar, South Africa and Rus­sia. “Our business model is to re­cruit as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble in the coun­try we are work­ing so at the mo­ment we have a team in Aus­tralia and New Zealand work­ing on the next Cricket World Cup, and one just wrap­ping up af­fairs in the Caribbean where we were in­volved in the Caribbean Premier League,” he says.

For many work­ing on th­ese events for the first time, the pace of the work that goes into them comes as a shock; prepa­ra­tion that stretches back years, lead­ing up to a fren­zied few weeks be­fore the event, the ex­e­cu­tion and the almost anti-cli­matic wind­ing down. “Run­ning a mega-event is like build­ing a company for years, run­ning it for a few months and then dis­man­tling it after,” he says. For the lo­cal or­gan­is­ers it could be pretty trau­matic, say­ing goodbye after work­ing to­gether on a project for months on end. But for Rush­man and his fel­low spe­cial­ists, it's on the next coun­try and the next event, where, more of­ten than not, they bump into the same peo­ple all over again. At London Olympics 2012, Rush­mans was in­volved in run­ning the me­dia cen­tre, stu­dio sets and the London Am­bas­sador vol­un­teer pro­gramme among oth­ers. “The Olympics is su­perbly com­plex with many sports span­ning many lo­ca­tions, all re­quir­ing dif­fer­ent spe­cial­ists down to pho­tog­ra­phers and tele­vi­sion crews,” he says. But what­ever be the event, you'll find a Rush­mans per­son in­volved; some­where buried and out of sight but very present nonethe­less, he says.

The me­dia de­cides

One of the more in­ter­est­ing as­pects of de­liv­er­ing events around the world for Rush­man is the cul­tural dif­fer­ences, work­ing with all kinds of peo­ple re­act­ing in dif­fer­ent ways to sit­u­a­tions. “Through the course of my job I have made friends from Ja­maica to the US to Rus­sia and they all have their idio­syn­cra­sies. The Bri­tish are dif­fi­cult to work with,” he laughs, “The Ja­maicans have a kind of la­conic ap­proach to work. But it doesn't mat­ter be­cause the most im­por­tant thing is to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of the stake­hold­ers.” In his ex­pe­ri­ence, he has re­alised that, more of­ten than not, it's the me­dia, not the pub­lic, which de­cides the suc­cess or fail­ure of an event. “Take the 1996 Sum­mer Olympics in At­lanta. Marred by lo­gis­tic is­sues in the be­gin­ning and the bombing, the me­dia de­clared that it was badly or­gan­ised and wrote so every­day that it was the worst Olympics ever. But it wasn't.” This is why Rush­man

says that it's dou­bly im­por­tant to take good care of the press. “More peo­ple will see the World Cup in Qatar through the eyes of the me­dia through tele­vi­sion com­men­tary, the so­cial me­dia and newsprint, if it still ex­ists.”

But with the scathing me­dia at­tacks of the last few months, has the me­dia al­ready passed judg­ment on the 2022 World Cup? Rush­man de­nies that. “No. I don't think the me­dia has al­ready de­cided that the World Cup here is go­ing to be bad. If you care­fully look at me­dia re­ac­tion to any ma­jor sport­ing event, a pat­tern emerges. At the be­gin­ning, when the bid is an­nounced, the me­dia al­ways is skep­ti­cal, then comes the eu­pho­ria with the win­ning of the bid, fol­lowed by cyn­i­cism, doubt and fear, and fi­nally the cel­e­bra­tions and the praise of the un­wor­thy with the close of the event. It hap­pens with all events and this is not just unique to Qatar which has come into a huge amount of un­wanted me­dia at­ten­tion, es­pe­cially in Eng­land.” He says none of the ded­i­cated sports news­pa­pers in main­land Europe has been as vit­ri­olic as the “Mur­doch press”. The news­pa­pers in the UK have more sports pages than any other coun­try on earth, he says. “You won't find any news­pa­per out­side of the UK with 10-12 pages in the back ded­i­cated to sports. And they have to fill it. And when there's noth­ing else of go­ing on, they prob­a­bly say to them­selves, ‘Let's have another bash at Qatar. That's worth a go'.”

“If you were in Asia you might not even know of the crit­i­cisms,” he says. There is a par­tic­u­lar cyn­i­cism and ag­gres­sion in the English me­dia, he says. “It was a huge in­com­pre­hen­si­ble sur­prise to the world of foot­ball when Qatar won the bid, this tiny coun­try with all the ob­vi­ous chal­lenges. I don't think they have got­ten over it yet. But they will,” he says re­as­sur­ingly." And it will get bet­ter.”

The best bid won

Qatar won the right to host FIFA 2022 World Cup be­cause it put forth a “much bet­ter con­sid­ered and con­structed bid,” Rush­man says firmly adding that he'll go to his grave say­ing that. “The bid was very well fo­cused on win­ning and there were so many rea­sons why Qatar won. FIFA was keen to take the World Cup to new ar­eas – South Africa, Rus­sia, the Mid­dle East. From Qatar it could reach out to a third of the world's pop­u­la­tion in Asia and it was in a great time zone for tele­vi­sion, with matches be­ing screened dur­ing the prime broad­cast time in Europe.” He also gives an ex­am­ple of the bid pre­sen­ta­tions to point out the lit­tle things that mat­tered in the end. “Out of the 22 mem­bers the FIFA Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, only four were na­tive English speak­ers. But Qatar was the only coun­try that pre­sented in English, French and Span­ish. The English bid spoke about how won­der­ful their premier­ship foot­ball is what which, was not the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee wanted to hear; it was so won­der­ful be­cause they were steal­ing play­ers from the Euro­pean leagues. The mo­ment I heard them talk­ing about the EPL, I knew that they had lost their bid.”

So de­spite all the al­le­ga­tions around Qatar's bid­ding process, Rush­man says there is noth­ing he would do dif­fer­ently if given the chance. “We knew even while bid­ding that we'd be highly scru­ti­nised if we won and so were ex­tra dili­gent even when oth­ers were bend­ing the rules of the bid. We cer­tainly an­tic­i­pated th­ese prob­lems [ but I didn't ex­pect it'd be quite so fe­ro­cious]; the cor­rup­tion charges might have come any­ways. Peo­ple would have been cu­ri­ous, en­vi­ous, dis­be­liev­ing that Qatar won the bid on its mer­its no mat­ter what we did,” he says.

But it did. Each bid­der would fully use what­ever re­sources they had at their dis­posal and for Qatar one of those re­sources hap­pens to be money. Rush­man ex­plains how the two World Cups that were awarded simultaneously to Rus­sia and Qatar make bet­ter business sense. “Th­ese were the only coun­tries that had no eco­nomic chal­lenges, were hugely wealthy and most likely to stage the best world cup un­der the cir­cum­stances. Eng­land was broke with not much gov­ern­ment fund­ing in sight. FIFA didn't want to host across two coun­tries again (Ja­pan and Korea), the USA was in the throes of a ma­jor re­ces­sion. And here were the deep-pock­eted Rus­sian and Qatari gov­ern­ments promis­ing what­ever was needed. If you were FIFA and 95% of your rev­enues came from the World Cup, which would be the safest way to go?” he asks qui­etly

(Top) Qatar wins the FIFA World Cup 2022 bid; at­ten­dence at the "In­tro­duc­tion to Ma­jor Events" course by Josoor In­sti­tute

Qatar is home to multi-pur­pose sta­di­ums like the 40,000-seater Khal­ifa In­ter­na­tional Sta­dium which hosted the fi­nal of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup

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