By Jaime Garzon, Sports Competition & Events Coordinator
During the summer of 2019, Turnstone and the City of Fort Wayne, in collaboration with the United States Association of Blind Athletes and the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), produced the 2019 IBSA Goalball & Judo International Qualifier. This event featured 500 of the world’s best athletes with visual impairments as they sought qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The event also marked a milestone by becoming the largest international event hosted in the city of Fort Wayne and the first Paralympic Qualifier of its kind to be held in the United States. These firsts were exciting but also presented unique challenges in the planning and execution of the event.
The Local Organizing Committee learned quickly that fully engaging with our local partners and sports commissions would be a key factor in producing a successful event. With the multitude of logistics that an international competition necessitates, collaborative relationships spanned the breadth and depth of the event production.
In debriefing at the conclusion of the event, our team recognized several key takeaways that contributed to the positive experiences of participants, officials, staff, volunteers and the community at-large.
- Paint the picture
We prioritized communication with all of our partners to make sure they were aware of the Paralympic movement, IBSA, the participating sports, and how the event was going to impact the city for future opportunities. Ensuring that our partners fully understood the context and importance of the event was the first step in moving forward with everyone in sync and focused on what a successful event would mean.
- Bring your partners along
Throughout the planning of the event, we included our partners in regular meetings to make sure they were fully aware of the dependencies that existed among organizations and logistics teams. These meetings were held several times a month for a year leading up to the event and keeping our partners in the community aware of the varying logistics helped us avoid numerous surprises that could have presented themselves throughout the execution of the event.
- Learn about your partners’ needs
We greatly benefitted from taking the time to learn about our partners’ organizations and their respective expectations for the event. While it can be easy to get lost in the weeds of the event at-hand, learning about our partners’ unique organizational cultures, and their needs and expectations related to the event helped us brainstorm gaps in service, invite other partners along to complement existing plans if necessary, and provid the opportunity for our partners to really invest in the event by adding their own mark to the overall experience.
- Create relationships deeper than event-level
Creating a relationship with the people managing our accounts and those in position of making decisions was important throughout the planning stages. Prioritizing this detail ensured that we had a foundation of understanding that would help us solve issues during the event when time and resources were of the essence.
- Share ownership of your momentum and successes
It was imperative that our local partners work with us not only in executing the logistics of the event but also in promoting the attendance and awareness of the event, as well. This was especially critical in acquiring sponsorships and building the large volunteer-base necessary to support the event. Publicly promoting the commitment of our partners helped give their respective brands shared ownership in the success of the event and showcased their contributions to the experience. The benefit was mutual with our partners doing their part to promote the event details and encouraging our community to come alongside the historic happenings.
The recent announcement of the IBSA Goalball & Judo International Qualifier being named as a Champion of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism by Sports Destination Management is only a testament to the mutual efforts demonstrated by our local organizing committee and community partners.
The role our partners played was a defining factor in showcasing to the world the best of our resources, community, and our country. The collective efforts demonstrated throughout the entirety of the event process were remarkable and generated a product that will not be long-forgotten.