In the August issue of National Masters News Al Sheahen has two articles on the WMA World Championships in Brisbane in July but then adds another one under ”From the Editor” and titled ”Which Way, WMA?”. The two first give accurate pictures of the Championships and the General Assembly but in the third one he suddenly raises a lot of issues and criticizes WMA and the Brisbane LOC for weaknesses and shortcomings. Al Sheahen, being a WAVA Council Treasurer for many years, is no doubt aware of all problems to organize our World Championships and it is surprising to read his com-ments with the background he has.
I would also like to underline that most athletes
were very satisfied with the Brisbane organization. The LOC and their staff did
a wonderful job and worked with great dedication and goodwill to give us the
best-ever Cham-pionships. I guess we will always have complaints from individual
athletes but the overall impression of Brisbane is World Championships on a very
high level as was also the case in Gateshead in 1999.
However, I will not say that Al is wrong in all his comments but cannot help wondering why he did not raise many of his issues in Brisbane when we had a chance to talk to each other. As I do not side with Al in all his complaints I am of course very interested to answer him and will try to do so issue by issue:
1. Cutting costs
The WMA Council is fully aware that to-days’ Championships are not a financial success in themselves. The costs are very high – resulting both from the LOC’s ambitions and the athletes’ expectations – but unlike the IAAF and other World Championships the sponsors’ contribution is small and the main income is from the entry fees. These cover basic costs but only if the entry is large. This is something that Al must be very aware of with his experience as WMA Treasurer since Melbourne, AUS, (1987) and onwards.
Both in Gateshead and Brisbane we have found out
that our WMA World Championships do have something that is attractive to the
cities that bid for the Championships and this is the huge amount that the
athletes bring into the cities’ economy. In Brisbane this amount was estimated
to between 22 and 25 AUD millions and seen from this angle the Championships
suddenly become a success story to the local economy and can justify necessary
We understood from the bidders for the 2005 WMA World Championships that this is something they had understood and I am sure that future bidders will also look upon our Championships in the same way.
However, this does not mean that there will be –
or were in Brisbane – free resources and every LOC/city will look carefully on
the various costs. In Bris-bane this fell upon the bus transportation that, if
bought from a bus company, would have cost AUD 2 million. We could not simply
2. Booth at the airport
We will require that there is always a booth at the airport but there will be no LOC free transports from the airport to hotels.
It must be pointed out that the LOC in Brisbane had volunteers at the airport to welcome and help – and they were very helpful.
3. Lack of signs
Yes, the observation is correct that there was a lack of signs – but only initially. It was pointed out to David Lloyd and his staff that more signs were necessary and this was corrected.
I am surprised by the criticism of volunteers and low-paid staffers. I think we are all very aware that our Championships rely to a very great extent just on all those who spend weeks to officiate and help – and do not require any salary for their contribution. As long as I have been involved, this has been an important condition and I doubt that any future organizer will be able to do without volunteers. On the contrary I think we should all be very grateful that people do want to spend holidays to organize our World Championships with the only salary being the feeling of doing something positive. I must say that I am very surprised to see that Al has not realized this point.
5. Hip numbers
In all competitions I have been involved in – and they are many – I have never seen that runners in events in separate lanes are given hip numbers and I see no reason why they would be necessary in our WMA World Cham-pionships.
6. Opening Ceremony
I do not share Al’s view that we got a dull and low-budget entertainment. However, the evening was cold due to the moon and starlit sky and if people left before all was over I think this was more due to the chilly climate than a ”dull and low-budget entertainment” but of course we were many people there and we do not appreciate the same thing all. I liked the programme and many with me but, again, this is a personal opinion.
7. International Party
Again, we have various habits. Some people appreciated the party, others did not and my only comment is that those who feel they do not appreciate such a party shall of course not attend. My feeling is that we had a nice evening with good food and drinks but the WMA Council will take a greater interest in future parties and discuss price and programme with the LOC as the issue is raised.
Here Al is right. The result giving the first days was not satisfactory. We (WMA) must take some of this responsibility on us as we should have checked better that the IT-system/organization would work better but it improved over the days. We have learnt the lesson and will check more carefully in the future.
I did not visit the announcers’ booth and cannot comment upon the tempe- rature or other conditions here but if they were not satisfactory I am sur- prised that the announcers did not ask for better conditions during the Cham-pionships.
As to the announcing I had myself no complaints but am fully aware that some people can want more details while others do not. Al was one of the announcers himself and again I am surprised at the criticism afterwards. Why not correct during the Championships ?
10. No evening events
We (WMA) do really want to avoid competitions long into late evenings and the programme was set up accordingly. It is no pleasure to anybody to com-pete day after day until 10.00 p m and then start early again the next mor-ning. We will continue to set up programmes that allow athletes, officials and others to have free evenings to spend elsewhere than in the Stadium which I think is also the wish of all involved.
11. Closing Ceremony
Well, again, we have different opinions of the programme. I felt a warm at- mosphere at the Closing Ceremony but it is obvious that Al did not. I am sorry for that as the programme was set up to give all athletes and others a nice farewell and if we did not succeed it is sad. The good ambition was there anyway.
12. 2005 Bidders/Awarding
I think we are all in agreement that the order we have always had at the General Assemblies with the candidates presenting their bids at the end of the agenda is no good. The bidding in Brisbane was not well organized by us. We must change the timetable and start with the presentations as the first item at the Assembly so that we can tell the bidders when they will be invited to present their bids and give them a chance to answer questions. Here Al is right but, on the other hand, we have had this order for many years without any criticism.
Further I do not find Al’s statement that the bidders ran away very upset from the Assembly correct. I talked myself calmly to Helsinki and San Sebastian after the Assembly and discussed the presentation and outcome with them. Sacramento disappeared unfortunately before I had a chance to talk to them but I have no idea if it was their transportation that caused this.
13. Lack of Openness
I do not understand Al on this issue. He says that it was hard to get me to call for a vote on an important issue – I do not know which one. Al says that Mary Rosado was thrown out of three Standing Committees – I am not aware of this and have not thrown anyone out of a Committee. I could guess that he refers to the open meeting of some committees but when the committees proceed to have their closed meeting only the committee members are allowed to attend. This Al must be well informed about as it has been the way we have used the last ten years.
maintained at the Women’s Assembly that she was elected in Gateshead for a
four-term period, i.e. up to 2003. I was of the opposite opinion, i.e. that her
election from Durban in 1997 was prolonged to four years and consequently ended
now in Brisbane. I do not know if Al had left the Assembly when I finally said
that we must check the decision in Gateshead. At the General Assembly I asserted
that Bridged was nominated but the overwhelming opinion at the Assembly
convinced me that the Delegates wanted an election and I accepted this and
Marina Hoernecke-Gil – one of four candidates – won. There were Delegates
who thanked me afterwards for good democratic behaviour which to me is very far
from ”lack of openess”.
14. Kuala Lumpur vs Puerto Rico
The way we award our Championships has some weaknesses as it is always the WMA Council that is criticized if anything goes wrong, even though it is the General Assembly which awards the Championships. Al’s comments are another good proof of this weak system. I have no intention to take the awarding away from the General Assembly but, and here I am strongly con-vinced, the Council must have the power to act if the conditions require so which was the case in Kuala Lumpur vs Puerto Rico. There were certain problems in Kuala Lumpur that could not be solved even if we (WAVA Council) gave the LOC seven weeks to do so. I will not bring up a long discussions here again as we have explained everything to Kuala Lumpur and have overcome all bad feelings but the experience is that the Council must have the right to act if necessary.
I can understand Al but do not share his opinion. There has all years been identification cards giving ”athletes”, ”officials”, ”volunteers” and ”VIPs” and this is just to separate functions. To maintain that VIPs are some special kind of people is just stupid – and Al must with his long-time experience as Council Member realize that he has been a ”VIP” many times – why complain just now ?
Drug abuse is to my mind the biggest challenge also to our movement and I got the feeling at the General Assembly that all Delegates shared this opinion. I am happy for that and for the approval of the Council’s anti-doping policy. We will now also seek the contact with WADA – the new World Anti-Doping Agency – as outlined in the policy. I would in this context also very much like to point out that also the World Masters Games will now introduce drug testing as one effect of their recognition by the IOC. WMA is by no means the only masters’ organization that has an anti-doping programme.
I do really hope that
Al is not of another opinion re our anti-doping programme but in his comments I
lack the knowledge that any athlete has the right to apply for exemption to use
prohibited substances. This is laid down in the IAAF ”Procedural Guidelines
for Doping Control”, § 5 – procedures that WMA has accepted to follow. We
have had some such applications of which one or two have been approved on
There was a proposal from Australia that ”all competitors in WAVA World Championships must wear uniform clothing that is approved by their National Governing Body”. The proposal, amended to read ”wear a singlet or vest that…, was approved by the General Assembly almost unanimously (6 no votes and 1 abstention). I cannot see that this will support nationalism in the sense I have a feeling Al wants to stress. To me, and obviously also to the Delegates, it is simply a way of order and it makes it much more easier to see who the athletes are. May I also point out that the Affiliates march in at the Opening Ceremony behind their national flags and signs which I never have heard anyone criticize – on the other hand we were criticized when we tried to reduce the ceremony in Gateshead. I think that some positive ”nationalism” is both welcome and good to the spirit of our Championships, or why do our relays always attract so much interest ?
18. WMA Arrogance/Europeans Control WMA
I must say that I was very disappointed to read these sections. As I see them, Al tries to build up a picture where the WMA Council, the LOC, sponsors would live in one world and the athletes in quite another. The reference to the WMA President as ”His Excellency” is unbelievable and ridiculous. If he refers to me personally I can console him with the facts that I was myself present at most Technical Morning Meetings, I, and all Council Members, spent most of our time in the Stadium enjoying just what Al says he likes most, i.e. the good atmosphere and the performances. I do the same and had good talks to many athletes and others. No Al, here you are completely wrong and I do not under-stand your motives.
Correct is of course that the WMA Council was invited to some receptions together with the LOC and sponsors. So it has been at all World Champion-ships and I think that it will be so also in the future as there are some social contacts that require the Council’s attendance. As Treasurer you took part in the same and I never heard you questioning them.. The talk about ”the whole thing smacked about elitism, royalty vs the rabble” is something that stands for youself Al on your editorial mountain.
In all, the Brisbane
WMA World Championships were a great success. There will always be some who feel
that they were treated badly but I am doubtful if we will ever – like all
other world organizers – reach the 100 % level. The only thing I can promise
is that the WMA Council, with the athletes’ best in our mind, will do its best
to make the Championships as good as possible and Brisbane was definitely a very
great success. How we will succeed in the future is up to the athletes to judge.
All of us can do without profits or doom and gloom.