February 25/03 9:00 am - Grading the Hamilton Worlds
Posted by Editoress on 02/25/03
2003 Road Worlds
by Rob Jones
We Grade the Worlds
It is time to grade the Worlds. This is an entirely subjective rating, so it is quite possible you might disagree with us on various points. Please note that this is our rating as of NOW, approximately 8 months out from the event. The organization is aware of some of our criticisms, and many are being addressed, or will be addressed in the near future, we are told.
We have identified a number of key aspects to the Worlds, and have graded them individually, with comments explaining our grade. This is followed by an overall grade.
No question, the Hamilton Worlds will have one of the most exciting courses in recent memory. Riders who have already been on the course rate it as hard and tactical, which should lead to extremely interesting racing. Having the races take place through the middle of one of Canada's largest cities, during the Ontario fall, with hundreds of thousands of fans - well, it just couldn't get any better. . .
Really, we would like to break this into two parts; one graded an 'A', the other a 'C-'. For government funding, the organization rates an A (despite the recent whining and confusion at the municipal level). The federal, provincial and regional governments are all on side - later than planned, but on side. One slight sour note is that Frank Klees, the former provincial Tourism Minister that got the province back on track, has just been shifted to Transportation in a Cabinet shuffle. Hopefully, this will not have a negative impact on the Province's involvement.
The bad news is the corporate side and revenue generating programs. So far, there are only two confirmed corporate sponsors - Colnago and Dofasco. Part of the problem is the potential Iraq war; companies are leery of committing to anything too major in case war breaks out and the economy tanks. This is particularly true for U.S. companies. Normally, a major airline (like Air Canada) would be on board by now, but anyone who listens to the news will know that airlines aren't putting money into much these days.
The delay in signing off on provincial funding didn't help for corporate sponsorship, since everything was put on hold until the deal was finally consummated last fall. This left less then a year to sign 6 and 7 figure sponsors, and that is too little time. So, at this point, there is still no beer company, airline, auto company, credit card company or bank, etc., etc. Time is getting short.
Also, merchandising programs, expo booth sales and ticket sales are still not underway, and they could already be bringing in revenue, as well as helping keep interest up in the event.
The government money takes some of the heat off (it is enough to ensure that the Worlds will go forward, no matter what the corporate total turns out to be), but the lack of non-government funds certainly restricts the ability of the organization to be flexible when it comes to activities surrounding the actual races.
If we looked strictly at current management (headed by Neil Lumsden), this rating would be an A. However, Lumsden (the Chief Operating Officer) is still relatively new to the position, and is spending a lot of time putting out fires. Hopefully, as he and his staff get on top of things, we will begin to see some proactive movement by the organization. The other downside, is that there is exactly one cycling person involved: Technical Director Pierre Hutsebaut. While Hutsebaut is more than competent in his area, the lack of cycling expertise is potentially troubling.
If you read our report on the proposed plans for integrating the Worlds with the City (published yesterday: Road Closures, Resident Access and Emergency Services), you will have seen that we are fairly impressed with the plan. But (and it's a big but...) there were still a fair number of excellent questions posed by residents at the Town Hall meeting we went to regarding access, traffic gridlock, etc. for which the answer was "we'll get back to you". The only other negative that stops us from upgrading this to a B+ is the current concern with the City over who is to pay for all these services...
This is the big failing thus far by the Worlds organization, and they admit themselves that they need to improve. We say Amen! to that . . .
In all areas, communications need to improve: the volunteers, who still are waiting to find out exactly what they are volunteering for. The media, who have to pester the organization for regular updates (which is not conducive to good relations...), potential spectators (ticket sales and merchandise), potential sponsors, requests for accommodation, the list goes on and on.
The website went up late, even at this time of year it can be weeks between press releases (a Festival Director was just hired, we hear, but that's all we hear...), a Director of Volunteers is on the way (it is rumoured) . . .
As you can tell, we are pretty frustrated. This is one of the things that Neil Lumsden has promised is on his priority list, and we certainly hope so. On the plus side, staff at the organization are always fast getting back to us, and do their best to fulfill our requests.
This is a big question mark. We are somewhat pessimistic, due to the lack of corporate sponsorship, but still hold out hope that a legacy for cycling in Ontario and Canada will be realized from the Worlds. At the time of the launch, a cycling legacy was put forth as one of the most important aspects of presenting the Worlds. I spoke with Heritage Minister Sheila Copps at the time, and she was confident that such things as a cycling track were part of the outcome of the Worlds - all part of an ambitious National Cycling Centre.
Since then, both McMaster University (the site of the proposed Centre, with track and other facilities) and the Worlds organization have backed away from legacy commitments. The reason, of course, is the shrinking budget, due to a probably reduction in corporate involvement. There is further concern because there is almost no involvement by the cycling community. David Braley (Board Chair) is a CFL person, so is Neil Lumsden (as is PR person Norm Miller).
It would be very sad if, 5 years after the Worlds, we asked the question: "What concrete legacy resulted from the Worlds in Hamilton?", and everyone responded "Uhhhh..."
"The student has had a slow start, but shows great potential. With extra effort and perseverance, this student can still excel and finish at the top of the class."
We hope to see a B to B+ within two months.