Worlds Report, Nanjing
Nanjing Roller Sports Organisation started out with a very bold claim; "World Capital of Roller Sports". They set themselves a very high bar that they had to live up to.
The positives are that they had a nice new track with Vesmaco on it. And the road circuit was pretty fast (when it was dry). The racing was awesome! Highlights were Messy Mike winning his 5th Elimination world title, Simon Albrecht's 23.9 300m and Gwendal's 500m going from 4th to first in one lap, and Lollo going from 5th to 1st in the relay final!
Gwendal's 500m Final...
Next year Nanjing will host the "Roller Games", a project designed to promote roller sports in a favourable light and get Olympic eyes to take a new look at our sports. (Good idea? or not? That's a different article.) So, you would assume that everything should be well organised, running smoothly and all the finer points polished or almost polished.
Here's just a few of our experiences, but you should know that we heard many MANY stories of other skaters and coaches having similar or even worse problems on a daily basis;
We'd sent out accreditation info. (Passport, photo, etc. ) But we couldn't get our accreditation, we were told. We don't know why. So we tried to buy tickets to watch as spectators. "ALL Tickets Sold out", but there were plenty of empty seats inside. We had to blag our way in, it only took 1 hour 20 mins arguing at the track gates, so we missed most of the 300m TT's.
"ALL Tickets Sold out" ... ????
The arena did not fill up later, actually people went home and even more seats became available.
Next day we managed to get tickets for the second day of racing, 560Y ($114 / €75). Next day they give us our accreditation, so we didn't need tickets anyway. .. but now we can't get our money back, and can't sell them.
At the official technical meeting when asked how long the RoadCircuit was, the officials said "We're not sure, about 590m we think".
Athletes are not allowed to stand by the track to watch, they must stand 2m further back. This seemed strange.
Al the mens toilets were blocked/broken on the first day. Signs were posted which caused quite some amusement... "Toilets have been bad" 😂
Points score-board failed in middle of the junior women's points race.
Seats over 20m from track, slightly lower than ground level, and the rear seats were 40m from the track outer edge, meaning you couldn't really see the essence of the racing. (we were not allowed to go and stand close to the track).
Official helpers or guides were plentiful, but none of them had any authority to actually do anything, they were just there to "control" people. Official translators provided by the organisation were actually very poor at English. It took us 3 days to find one that was good enough at English to have semi-conversation with. ( I do not expect everyone to speak English. Actually, I do not expect ANYONE to speak English... except official translators provided by the organisation. It's their job to speak English so the championships function well, right? )
The first time we saw a diagram of the marathon course was less than a week before the race. We'd heard rumours earlier, but all turned out to be wrong. And we'd had two official communications from FIRS about the marathon races, (one saying 6.8km/lap with a 11am start, and another saying 5km/lap with a 7:30 start time for (masters) men and 7:35 for (masters) women. It ended up 5.2km (we think, still not sure). It was anyones guess if the different age categories would start separately or not. We hoped so. Although, having 8 different races on one circuit all at the same time sure sounded like a recipe for disaster and incorrect results. (... as has happened before at worlds masters.)
The medal ceremonies at these events are generally a long drawn out process taking 6 or 7, sometimes 8 minutes each, but it seems in China they went one step further... over 11 minutes per ceremony, so when there's 4 ceremonies (Jun, Senior, Men, Women) plus the 10 mins before the first one starts and the ten minutes after the last one ends, that means a break of over an hour between action. I totally agree we have to praise and reward the athletes who have worked hard to win, but the ceremony seems more about the officials who are presenting the medals than the athletes who won. And if we are going to make our sport more "spectator friendly", then it's probably best not to have a one hour break in the middle of the program. It was clear to see MANY people walking out, going home and not staying for the last races due to the hour of medal ceremonies.
The scooter wasn't fast enough into ladies elimination, so the mens raced was postponed until Friday (after the skaters had already warmed-up and psyched-up). And then it rained for 2 days solid.
There were no lights at the road, so racing couldn't be in the evening (not after 6pm).
There was no rest day between track and road (even though in the rules it says there must be), it is placed today between the road and marathon. So, 6 days racing without a break, no chance to properly test the road circuit or road circuit wheels, then a rest day, then the marathon.
The Junior and Senior Marathons are starting together in one pack, and each team could have 16 skaters. Which makes a mockery of the race and disrespects the athletes.
We have heard no official information about the Masters marathon start. (Actually, the Masters Marathons do not even appear on the program. We are invisible. Most Senior and Junior skaters don't even know that we are racing BEFORE them!)
We have heard rumours, that it is the same situation for Masters, and that 5 different age groups will start in one pack. Yes, 35 year old skaters together with 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's. This will change the style of the race and the result of the race. Why do they it like this? "A big mass start LOOKS BETTER for the media." ... why didn't they hold it in a country where we don't need to destroy the race to obtain good size pack pictures for the media? (There were over 400 masters athletes in Dijon. Probably less than 200 here (unless China is bringing 200+ skaters? Although we have not seen a start list despite registration closing 6 days ago 😳 )
And lastly we have heard that the Worlds Marathon (Junior/Senior) will not be a World Championship. It will only be an "International Marathon", because if the Juniors race with the Seniors then it is not allowed to be called a World Championship.
Will the Masters race be a World Championship? (All the age groups are starting together). Because I think MANY people are going to be royally pissed if it's not, for most that arrived yesterday and today, that's the only reason they've travelled to China.
There are many more points I could mention, but I think this list is too long already... so ... anyway ... The marathons are tomorrow... Masters start at 7:30, which means getting up at 4:30 to eat breakfast. ... The Junior+Seniors Women start at 9:30, Men at 11:00 ... let's see how that goes. It's going to be interesting to see how the top skaters handle a lead-out train of 16 Colombian skaters, or trying to go on a breakaway with each major team having 15 people to work for one captain.
All the racing will be over by noon, so very few 'random-public-spectator's or 'passers-by' will see the race. (I though the priority was publicity a few moments ago? You see the paradox?)
... ... ...
Some of these points are minor accidents, and can't be avoided. Some are major mistakes. But even with minor mishaps in such high volume they add up. And don't forget, this is just OUR experiences, others had other problems.
You might call me naive for expecting things in our sport to have improved since my first worlds in 1991, but ... I DO expect things to improve. (By the way, the worlds in '91 was organised pretty well as far as I remember.) Nanjing has been FAR worse. If we are talking Olympic status, things HAVE to improve, because with this level of organisation and communication then we are sadly at least 20 years away from even the slightest chance of Olympics.
I really DO understand that we have to take our sport to new countries and spread the sport world-wide. But shouldn't we go to these new countries ONLY when they are READY, organised and capable of organising an event like worlds?
I apologise if this seems negative, I was hoping to write a really nice review, positive about China and hoping to praise development etc. Unfortunately this was not the experience we saw or heard about. Let's hope this was a dress-reversal and most of the problems are now realised and will be smoothed out for the Roller Games (Worlds) next year in Nanjing.
It's a very sad situation for our sport. 😞