Finishing touches pay off in the end

MATT SILLARS
Last updated 05:00 06/02/2013

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OPINION: Organising an event is much like training for one - you can be as prepared as possible and still not have any idea of how the day will pan out. Even the Super Bowl, one of the world's biggest sporting events, had issues with the lights dimming and suspending play for more than 30 minutes.

A lot of our work in the Sport Southland events team (which includes myself and colleague Sally Hayes) is about planning.

When we finished packing up after last year's BNZ Surf to City, we started planning for this year's one and, now that it's just days away - on Sunday - we like to think we're as organised as we can be but you just never know what the day will bring.

There are some things you'll never be able to control - namely the weather - and, even though the forecast is looking great, you still need to be prepared for anything; providing shelter where and when possible and ensuring you provide a fantastic event people will enjoy regardless of the conditions.

A case in point when it comes to planning is the recent Distinction Hotels Milford Mountain Classic which, due to a rockfall at the Milford end of the Homer Tunnel, had to be shortened by 20km - and that was confirmed only six days out from the event.

Sport Southland works closely with Destination Fiordland to help run this event and, in this case, it was about making the best of a less than ideal situation. We could still offer a challenging 100km ride, starting on the Te Anau side of the Homer Tunnel and many of the competitors even thanked us after missing the toughest 20km of the route. Others stepped up from the 65km Meridian Eglinton Challenge to take on 100km.

I think everyone understood the potential risk the rockfall presented and the decision by NZTA to not allow us to start from Milford was in the best interest of all competitors.

A lot of my job within the events team revolves around traffic management and we had alternatives in place. It comes down to having plans A, B and C and doing the best you can with what you've got.

What makes that planning a lot easier, too, is having an early gauge on how many entries we're likely to have. We love it (love it) when people enter events early (ie before the day of). We try to encourage it with early-bird prices available on most events, promoting entry openings widely and offering incentives.

With all events we are involved with, there is a lot to consider - sponsorship (of which we are very lucky to have amazing sponsors across all events we are involved with), liaising with landowners, traffic management, pricing, distance options, marketing and advertising, entry formats, logistics, finish area setup and entertainment.

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It's all very satisfying to facilitate participation in events and, much like when you've trained for an event, the reward is seeing everyone's achievement in getting to the finish line.

We hope to see you there on Sunday!

* Matt Sillars is the events manager at Sport Southland.

- The Southland Times

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