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By Robert Jones, Special to VeloNews.com
This is the final report card for the Hamilton Road World Championships.In my first report card, back in the spring, I assigned an overall gradeof B-Minus, and two weeks before the start of the event, the grade improvedto a B. Now, it is time for the final grade. As previously, grades areassigned for key aspects of the event and organization, followed by theoverall grade.Course: A+ (previously an A+)
While the fields of competitors did not break up as much as expected,the course cannot be faulted. Teams rode defensively, with few riders willingto stick their neck out at the front of the race. Strong winds along theupper portions of the course, particularly in the time trials, were harderon the riders than the climbs.Spectators lined the course, and the scenery was spectacular, with HamiltonMountain awash in colors of gold, yellow and red from changing leaves.Of course, the incredible weather did not hurt at all.Finances: B (previously a C+)
This grade is difficult to assign, since the final numbers won’t bein until at least the end of October. All along, the organization has struggled- first with slow funding commitments from the province, and then disappointinglevels of sponsorship and a long delayed merchandising program.However, according the organization chief operating officer, Neil Lumsden,all financial commitments will be met, and merchandising and ticket salesbeat projections, leading him to predict a profit for a cycling legacy(more on this, below).This in itself is a strong accomplishment, which leads one to wonderwhat could have been done if the organization could have started earlier.The merchandising program in particular could have benefited with morelead time, since product arrived barely in time for the event (and someitems ran out halfway through the week). The web store never did add internationalsales – it still says Coming Soon! How much more could have been addedto the bottom line if this had gotten on track? The Expo area was alsounder-subscribed, and a number of cycling companies said that they werenever contacted.Overall, the final few weeks showed what could have been accomplished,and the missed opportunities. This is frustrating and unfortunate.Management: A (previously an A-)
This is one area in which the organization just kept getting betterand better. In the final few weeks of such a large scale event, it quicklybecomes apparent whether an organization can operate effectively or not.The core staff was augmented by extra employees, volunteers and membersof the cycling community (it looked like everyone who has been involvedin Canadian cycling for the past four decades ended up pitching in) asthe event started, and there were remarkably few glitches. In fact, oneof the biggest problems was a short-term difficulty in producing resultsby Tissot – the professionals in this area!Logistics: A (previously a B+)
We knew that the road closure organization would work, based on theCanadian Road Nationals, and the late addition of GO train service fromToronto certainly helped (although, more and earlier trains would havebeen better). However, the real test would come with such things as theAccreditation Center, volunteer management, security and – the big one- the media center.Accreditation ran extremely smoothly (Brian Groos, who has been involvedin Accreditation for Olympics and other major events, came on board inAugust, and did a stellar job). Likewise, the volunteers were motivated,knew their jobs, and managed to accomplish their often-thankless task witha smile for everyone. Hamiltonians really shone here.Security was as good as other Worlds’, although at times guards seemedconfused as to who was and wasn’t allowed in certain areas – a guard triedto tell my motorcycle driver and I that we weren’t allowed on the course- very politely. We responded that he should check with his supervisor,and after half a dozen radio conversations it was all sorted out, withmany apologies. Contrast this to the recent Mountain Bike World Championshipsin Lugano, Switzerland, where photographers had regular screaming matches(and in some cases physical confrontations) with security and volunteers.The media services rated an A+; certainly the finest I have ever hadat a world championships. Even the notoriously picky UCI Press Officer,Enrico Carpani, declared them to be the finest he has seen. The Europeanjournalists were in awe, and we had to quickly disabuse them of the notionthat we always enjoy facilities like this. (I’ll use this forumto offer a special thanks to the Press Officer Paul Gaines and his staff.)Communications: B+ (previously a D)
The only thing holding this back from an A grade, is how late everythinggot on track, and the announcing. Communications has been a weakness withthe organization from the beginning, with the initial grade an F. In thefinal week leading up to the event, and during the event itself, everythingwas excellent.As has already been mentioned, the press services were stellar. Duringthe event, updates from the organization were timely, and queries wereanswered immediately, or an answer was found as quickly as possible. Asan example, after the Genevieve Jeanson “Unfit to Race” announcement wasmade, a press conference was held at the end of the day, and the organizationhad a background paper on hematocrit testing ready for the mainstream journalistswho were unfamiliar with the process.The event website was updated regularly – something that, sadly, oftendoesn’t happen once events are underway. It was not meant to take the placeof regular media outlets, but they did provide event summaries, results,photos and upcoming activity schedules.The announcing on site was spotty, unfortunately for the spectators.There were long gaps when nothing was said, and then information that wasconfusing, incomplete (or plain wrong) would suddenly be blurted out. Theprimary announcer was brought in for his expertise in cycling, however,he seemed confused at times, and his English was, frankly, not up to therequired level. The Canadian announcer, Louis Bertrand, was much better,but didn’t get much air time, unfortunately.The television feed made up for this, where spectators could see theraw feed from the TV bikes and the helicopters on big screens around thecourse. CBC should be commended for their coverage here and, in fact, eventhe Belgian television crews present were impressed by the depth of coverage.Legacy: B- (previously a D)
This grade is somewhat optimistic, and is based partially on the expectedprofit announced by Lumsden. The organization and Heritage Minister SheilaCopps have avoided making any specific promises in this area for a longtime, talking instead vaguely about exposure to the sport and ‘touchy-feelie’memories. Given the financial concerns, this was all that they could do.IF there is a profit, and if it is reasonably substantial, thena respectable legacy may result. However, note the if’s, and’s andmay’s . . . It is to be split between the Canadian Cycling Associationand the Hamilton-based National Cycling Centre.Memories are good, but what is needed is a Centro and facilities wherethe kids who got excited about this event can be directed. I remember alot of people got excited after Steve Bauer won his Olympic silver in 1984.It did not translate into a huge surge in bike racers, partially becausethere was nowhere for them to be directed to.We will be watching very, very closely to see what happens to this legacy,and if it will be used to build on the terrific boost cycling just receivedin Hamilton..Final Grade: A- (previously a B)
The organization, the city and the people of Hamilton pulled it off.After a slow start, marked by squabbling among funding partners and, tobe blunt, some alarming chaos at the organizational level, they managedto put on one of the best run World Championships I have attended (andmy first Worlds was in 1974). They overcame the considerable disadvantageof not being in Europe (where governments roll out the red carpet for cycling),listened to experts, and, quite frankly, wowed many of my European colleagues.