Reaching fever pitch
06/02/2017 (18:05 00)
Reaching fever pitch

With three weeks to go until the European Team Championships in Lille, the local organising committee is ready to get down to the job of ensuring that the event is a success. Jean-Pierre Watelle, from the Ligue des Hauts de France and Thibault Garandet, from Lille Métropole Athlétisme, lift the veil on what’s going on behind the scenes to prepare for the event.

A well-oiled machine is at work behind every large-scale sports event. Before the floodlights are switched on, on Friday 23 June, the meticulous preparation for the festival of athletics at the Stadium Lille-Métropole has already been in operation for a considerable time. “Twenty or so people are already involved on a daily level. Every head of sector has been working on the organisation and preparation of the event for several months”, explains Jean-Pierre Watelle, Director of the Ligue des Hauts-de-France. “We’ve been working in collaboration with our clubs, and as a local club, the LMA plays an important role. The European metropolis of Lille has also played a decisive role as the event’s number one financial partner”, he adds.
His equivalent at the Lille Métropole club, Thibault Garandet, approves. “We’ve been managing the volunteer recruitment in connection with the metropolis. We’ve received 450 applications for the 230 or so posts to be filled. This makes for a huge pool of people who we can call upon in the event of withdrawal. Not everything is complete, as we haven’t yet integrated all the time constraints, but we’re on the right track. We’ll have logistical needs from the Monday preceding the event, with several teams called on to assist, and that will increase still further up to the three days of competition.” It is also interesting to note the wealth of versatility within the ranks of the volunteers, who have offered their services. “We’ve pooled our communications networks with the Metropolis and the League so as to maximise the recruitment and be in line with the missions set out by European Athletics as far as possible. We realised that there was a large community of volunteers in the Hauts de France region who pass the word on at all the major events. This was the case for the handball Worlds, the Euro football and the Euro basketball. It’s really helpful for us to be able to count on their experience.

The local fibre is entirely applicable
In total, the local pool of resources has enabled the incorporation of “a large part of the volunteers from the Hauts-de-France region, including the juries, 90% of whose judges come from the Ligue des Hauts-de-France”, explains Watelle.  “Some of the posts are dedicated to the young members of the local clubs, notably those who will officiate at the formal opening ceremony”, concludes his colleague.
We feel a real sense of enthusiasm as we have huge demand from the clubs to participate in the event. In 2011, we enjoyed very successful World U18 Championships. We haven’t organised a major meeting since the LMA meeting in June 2012, so athletics fans are eager for an event like this”, notes the Director of the League. Indeed, the latter has also planned an operation to introduce the top Olympic sport ten days before kick-off. From 13 to 15 June, on the Stadium track, the Kid Stadium and Urban Athlé devices will be set up to accommodate 5,000 children and adolescents, from local schools, colleges and social structures, with a daily team of fifteen to twenty people dedicated to coaching them.
On Friday 23, just a few hours after the first events of the championships, a highly popular race that goes by the name of the Friday Run, will offer participants the chance to take their turn on the Tartan track. Measuring some ten kilometres in length, the race will set out from and finish in the stadium, via a route encompassing the urban park and a circuit of Le Héron lake. “The idea is to get the general public involved in a major international event. It’s something we’ve always done on the fringes of the Liévin meeting for example.  This is something that is mirrored all over the world. It enables the public audience to be rallied together a little too, since they will then remain inside the stadium”, says a hopeful Jean-Pierre Watelle. They’ll also be able to appreciate the expertise of the organisers at first hand.