Column Wim de Rooij, CEO WPFG 2021

by Wim de Rooij

The coronavirus has the world in its grip. Many countries all over the world have taken impactful measures to combat the virus. And the coronavirus is affecting the WPFG Rotterdam 2021 as well. After the delegation from China had announced that they were not coming to Rotterdam for the March Meeting, the World Federation had to cancel the meeting as well. It’s a pity about all the preparatory work and the agreements we can’t make now, but in the light of the current situation, it’s the only right decision that could be taken. However, it once again underlines that a major mixed-sport event like the WPFG Rotterdam 2021 can be vulnerable, even as a result of unforeseen circumstances.

We are no strangers to the unexpected
Could the coronavirus throw a spanner in the works for us? Hard to say, because we have more than a year to go and by that time, the virus should be under control. If it’s not, we have a global problem on our hands that needs to be solved. However, it’s not the first time that unexpected occurrences have had an influence on this wonderful event. In 1989, the Netherlands took part in the WPFG for the first time, the year that Vancouver was the organizing city. Apart from the fact that our airplane almost crashed in Edmonton on the way back, it was an excellent edition of the WPFG. The stories we brought back ensured that the respectable number of 300 interested people were ready to take part in the WPFG in Memphis, two years later. However, in the run-up to the event, hijacking aircraft became a hobby for some people. And that had a significant effect. Naturally on the passengers of the hijacked airplane, but also on our candidate competitors. For half of them, the risk was too great, and so we went to Memphis with 150 competitors, still a good number, and again won our fair share of medals.

Hurricane in New York
Another memorable edition was the one in New York in 2011. Once again, we went to the USA with a good number of competitors. A few days earlier, I had come from Aruba and the pilot had been forced to make a considerable detour on the way to Amsterdam to avoid the emerging hurricane Irene. When that succeeded, I thought that the hurricane lay behind us. That was what I thought … but during our stay in New York, and the closer we got to the weekend, Irene raised its head more and more with each passing day. In the end, it raged over New York in the weekend and we were ‘sentenced’ to stay put in the hotel for 24 hours. New York has the name of being ‘the city that never sleeps’. Well, the other Dutch competitors and I have seen New York deserted. But the hurricane did have major consequences for the WPFG in New York. Sports were canceled and were not rescheduled. That meant that a number of sportspeople, including Dutch competitors, returned home empty-handed. A great pity, because there wasn’t any financial compensation.

We look ahead!
In our plans, we look ahead and also take into account the possibility of less desirable eventualities. All sorts of incidents are listed, together with possible directions we can take towards solutions. And I'm certain now that the outbreak of a global virus will be added to the list.