European Athletics Culture
Prof. Airnel T. Abarra-Head of Ateneo de Davao Track and Field Program and www.pinoyathletics.info Chief Correspondent
Note: This is a repost of the article posted in http://athletics.addu.edu.ph.
It’s been always said that “experience is the best teacher”. As educator and coach, it is imperative for us to really learn from different activities and events to further enhance our skills and knowledge. One of the best ways to really learn more and raise your level of excellence is through travel. Recently, I had a great chance to visit the Czech Republic and Germany to witness the 2015 Golden Spike Ostrava Athletics Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic and Sparkasse Gala in Regensburg, Germany on 26-May and 06-June. The reason why I did this is in order to observe how competitions in the European Union are done and what lessons can be learned from them. Through this insight, I will present some few points I’ve observed.
People- When I went to Golden Spike in Ostrava, I see how their human resource works. All facilities have people you can ask to and the secretariat and accreditation desks are manned by competent persons who are neatly dressed and very approachable. The fact there is a language barrier as most of them are not fluent in English, they still try their best to accommodate your concerns. I have a high regard to Ms. Martina Kucerova, the press officer of the 2015 Golden Spike as she provided me the best treatment as a media/observer even the fact I am not from their country. Media conference rooms are already set-up complete with WiFi and results panel days before the actual competition which is way different from my experience in local and national competitions in the Philippines that facilities are still being constructed even during the competition proper.
Another fact that I’ve seen is that most people handling the different tasks in the tournament are simply volunteers from their local Athletics club. Compared to competitions that are manned by people who are simply paid, volunteers are better because they are committed and have a high sense of responsibility because they do the tasks for the love of the game. It is also noticed that most of the staff are youth and well trained in their respective tasks. As expected, all of them are well groomed with proper and neat uniforms so that they can be easily identified.
Culture- Talking to Mr. Alfonz Juck- the Golden Spike meet organizer, he told me that since the event on its 54th edition, it grown to be the biggest Athletics competition in Czech Republic because it has been consistently held for the longest time. Building an Athletics culture through regular competitions is very important and its foundation includes the community and clubs in Ostrava and as I mentioned earlier it is the local clubs do most of the job in organizing the tournament. In Sparkasse Gala Regensburg, it is the University Athletics Club that does the job in fielding people for the different tasks during the Athletics tournament.
Promotion- Coming as a media and observer for both meets in Ostrava and Regensburg, media are treated well and equally. Both independent and mainstream media share the spot in the press center, photographer’s box and other areas reserved to them. Added on that the media officers ensure that all members of the press are given results as soon as possible using the most up to date technology or using efficient “runners” in sending results for quick reportage. On top of that, media are always given refreshments at any given time. No wonder that Golden Spike and Sparkasse Gala are well covered in their respective countries because the promotion job by the media is well taken care off.
So how watching Athletics competitions in a European setting can help me as a coach and organizer? Simple. It gives me a model and standard that I want to work on. By meeting new people and going to new places, it gives me a sense of responsibility to be like them. True traveler and observers of international sporting events shouldn’t feel envious on what Golden Spike and Sparkasse Gala has to offer, but it should serve as an inspiration to emulate what had they done in order to make Athletics as true centerpiece event in their respective communities. The acceptance of people is seen that even its raining like in Ostrava, it draw crowds of audience ready to support, buy tickets, and bear witness to such impeccable tournament. Coming on that perspective, sport leaders shouldn’t just bicker and complain but they must do something to create new programs raise the culture of sport in our respective community. Build it and people will come.