Organising A Sports Event In The Face of Covid

A personal account fresh off Honda LPGA Thailand 2021

2020 was the year where the Honda LPGA Thailand was supposed to go big.

Bigger structures, new hospitality marques, expanded festival village, new merchandise… Hell yeah, even our tournament’s tagline was (and still is) “Dream Big”.

It all came to that fateful afternoon, two weeks before the event where our Tournament Director sat all of us down and announced, “guys, unfortunately we have to cancel our event.”

Then came all the “what to say”, what to dos”, “who to report to”….. It was a good lesson on crisis communication and I used it as a case study in a guest lecture I gave to the PR students of Binus University.

After a year of “hopefully next year will be better,” we are back.

Bigger? Not really. Stronger? Maybe. Smarter? Definitely.

Organizing a sports event mid pandemic is no easy feat and unfortunately we had to learn it the hard way. There were not many precedent events in this region that we can look into and most of all has never been in an organizational quarantine.

On top of that, regardless of how prepared you are, you can’t beat good old Murphy because “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”.

If there’s any takeaway from this event, as cheesy as it sounds, I would say it’s “improvise, adapt, overcome”.

Improvise

Risk of mass gathering? Do a closed-door event.

High exposure to Covid-19? Set up Organizational Quarantine (or more generally known as ‘bubbles’).

Need to control movement into Thailand? Charter a flight.

Contact tracing? Establish a QR code credentials system.

Reduce physical contact? Implement self-service at dining areas and digitize handbooks and guidelines that we usually print physical copies.

These are some of the major improvisations we did for our event but we still get ad-hoc problems everyday.

Fortunately, we are a creative bunch who tend to be inventive when faced with challenges (with the help of Google and the Indian teacher on YouTube of course).

Adapt

Me adapting well in the face of adversity

The adaptation part was generally about managing expectations, informing people in advance what to expect, what they can or cannot do in the bubble.

As luck would have it, after a year of hand sanitizing and social distancing, everyone has more or less adapted to the concept of ‘new normal’. However different countries have different standard operating procedures and it is necessary to come up with guidelines and handbooks to make everyone’s life a little easier. (I churned out at least five different handbooks for different groups of people)

One particular SOP that I find a little difficult is the “40-minute workout session with only one piece of equipment in a given space” rule. If you exceed the little box by just an inch, our Covid-19 Ops manager would instantly receive a photo of your creatively ‘out-of-the-box’ feet from the watchful Big Brothers.

Ridic? A little. But it is what it is. Safety comes first more than anything else.

Overcome

By the end of the day, a significant chunk of running an event (Covid or not) is about working together to overcome obstacles as a team.

A capable team is a group of people who complement each other’s skill set in achieving a common goal. Individually, we have to function in our own unit and at the same time be aligned with everyone else, like clockwork.

Also, I find that diverse perspectives can help you come up with winning innovations. We are a team that consists of at least eight different nationalities with different seniority. Some of the best ideas happen at “the intersection” where cultures, experiences and perspectives collide.

I am proud to be part of this Dream Team where my teammates shined in their respective roles and stood up without hesitation when someone is in need. Our first instinct is always to get into problem solving mode and overcome it as a team.

Something went wrong with the credentials? The player services team stood up and got it sorted.

Need help with the evacuation buggies? Consider it done!

Overwhelmed by the amount of goods in the storage? Let’s start our little factory and sort things out.

Even the finest Swiss movement has nothing on us.

Lastly, in the spirit of #DreamBig, I believe we should still set event goals and work towards achieving them. It will take a lot of perseverance and can be complicated but organising an event in the face of Covid-19 is definitely achievable. It really all boils down to the right mindset, setting the right expectations and of course having the right team.

And thank you to my dream team for showing that teamwork indeed makes the dream work.

I drink tea.