Posted by Editor on 09/24/03
2003 Road Worlds Report Card Update
By Rob Jones, Editor
Approximately 6 months ago, I issued a report card on the Hamilton Road World Championships. I assigned an overall grade of B Minus, and the organization afterwards called it a fair assessment.
We are now about 2 weeks out from the event, and it is time to see how things have progressed. As before, grades will be assigned for key aspects of the event, with an overall grade at the end.
Course: A+ (previously an A)
The course was used for the Canadian Road National Championships in June, with a number of foreign riders participating. It produced the most exciting racing in recent memory for a Nationals, and Nathan O'Neill (Saturn), who won the event, stated afterwards "This course is like a mongrel dog, when you don't expect it, it bites you in the ass." He also said that it was much harder than Lugano, Switzerland (1996), previously considered to be one of the tougher courses. Expect hard, well-fought races. "The winner here will be a true world champion" - Eric Wohlberg.
Finances: C+ (previously a B)
This is still a troubling area. Government funding is all in place (after earlier delays with provincial level commitments), which means that the Worlds organization can function. However, there is still a huge lag in corporate sponsorship and revenue generating programs.
To be fair, the general state of the economy and the Iraq war has discouraged sponsorship of many large events, however, the Worlds organization started chasing sponsors very, very late. There is no major alcohol company (a local micro-brewery has stepped in), beverage company, credit card company, bank, car company (Saturn will supply vehicles, but this is more on a regional level, will little cash attached) or other major corporate sector signed up.
In addition, merchandising started too late to make it into the bike shop programs for the season, with non-cycling gear (hats, t-shirts, etc.) having only begun limited sales in July. Even worse, the cycling apparel will probably not arrive until couple of weeks before the event (at last word, it STILL hadn't arrived).
Ticket sales have not reached expected levels either, and the latest reports downgrade the number of spectators for the final men's road race to 50,000 from the previously anticipated 85,000 plus.
Management: A- (previously a B+)
At the time of the last report card, a full time C.O.O. (Chief Operating Officer) had just been installed - Neil Lumsden. Our grade, therefore, was anticipatory, based on the hope that with full time management in place, things would start to move forward more quickly.
This has happened, with a steady stream of hirings taking place over the next few months to fill some of the gaping holes in the organization. We have seen a steady increase in action on the Festival side of the event, and in the Accreditation department. Unfortunately, as has been noted elsewhere, some of these hirings were too late to deal with slow communications, for example.
One of the remaining holes has been the lack of cycling expertise, which has led to problems when specific cycling-related aspects of the event need to be dealt with. Of course, having said that, once the actual events start, the UCI will move in and take over many of those functions.
Logistics: B+ (previously a B)
The National Championships showed that when it comes to road closures and access (by residents and emergency services), the comprehensive plan that was devised to operate in a city of half a million plus, works. There were no problems (other than a few disgruntled locals, which was bound to happen, even in the middle of rural countryside), and the riders were able to concentrate strictly on racing. From this perspective, the Worlds should work smoothly, although we won't know for sure until the event, when the expected influx of over 250,000 plus spectators (over the course of the week) arrives.
One troubling report that just came out last week in a local newspaper stated that Canadian Armed Forces (Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) will no longer be able to participate in the securing and marshaling of the circuit. According to the Armed Forces, regulations prohibit them from 'directing civilians'. So, rather than trained professionals (and, to be honest the authority provided by a uniform) assisting in the clearing of roads, it will be primarily volunteers.
Overall, though, this is one area that shouldn't cause problems.
Communications: D (previously an F)
This is still the biggest weakness of the organization, and it impacts on a number of areas, including sponsorship, ticket sales and media exposure. It is only in the past few weeks that regular updates and stories have started to be put forth by the organization. Up until then, it was up to the media to chase the organization themselves, which meant that outside of local and special interest media, little happened.
However, there is now a Press Officer, and stories are coming out - which are being picked up by the general media, which is building more interest. The website (www.hamilton2003.com) is being updated more regularly, although still lacking in some hard information areas (the info may be there, but it can be difficult to find).
Ticket purchasers have been frustrated by the lack of information on such things as parking, and, in some cases, tickets have been slow to arrive. The organization has acknowledged these shortcomings, and is moving to address them, but time is running short.
Similarly, for the Expo information is far behind schedule. There is still no floor plan available and telephone, power and security info is only dribbling out after repeated requests. The Opening Ceremonies include acts such as Tom Cochrane, but almost nobody knows about it, unless you read the local newspaper.
On the plus side, staff at the organization are always fast getting back to us, and do their best to fulfill requests. There is a genuine desire to improve the situation, and it is happening, but much later than we would have hoped for.
Legacy: D (previously a C)
In the last report card this is a big question mark, and it still is. We are now pessimistic, due to the lack of corporate sponsorship, that there will be a sustainable cycling legacy to come out of 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 (who represents Hamilton, and was instrumental in getting the event), 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.
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..."
Overall: B (previously a B-)
Many areas have shown improvement, but some of the weaknesses that were identified before are still in place. It is two weeks before Finals, and the organization is pulling "all-nighters"; hopefully this will enable them to ace the exam.
Look for the Final Grade after the Worlds end on October 12th.
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