The 5th FINA World Aquatics Convention 2018 kicked-off this morning (December 8) in Hangzhou, China, with the first-of-three jam-packet Conference day which included keynote presentations from a number of important experts from inside the Aquatics community and beyond.
Following the official welcome messages from FINA President Julio C. Maglione, FINA Executive Director Mr Cornel Marculescu and Hangzhou Vice Mayor Mr Chen Guomei and a presentation from the Director of the Municipal Sport Bureau Mr Jin Chenglong, the first intervention of the day explored the impact of hosting aquatic events for a city and a region.
“I really believe the next three days will be very inspiring ones for the FINA delegates attending this Convention. The programme is very attractive and many interesting topics are on the agenda,” Marculescu said.
He then briefly reviewed the elaborated programme of the next three productive days.
“I wish you all a nice time in Hangzhou!” Marculescu concluded.
Mr Jin Chenglong reminded the water and swimming heritage of Hangzhou.
“Hangzhou is a city built on water. It is surrounded by two major world water heritages; the West Lake and the Grand Canal that are beautiful and famous. Water is a pride of Hangzhou.
“Since 1984 China has participated in 9 Olympic Games and won 13 swimming gold medals, 6 of which won by Hangzhou swimmers. Therefore, we can say that our city is one of swimmers. There are about 5 swimming Olympic pools in our city, a real capacity for business.” he reminded the audience before praying the work of the 5,000 volunteers involved in the Championships.
President Maglione presented plaques to the city of Hangzhou representatives and the event partners to thank them for their support to the Convention.
The clear benefits for both the city and the sport and how an event can help achieve a community’s objectives by uniting people and boosting engagement in sport were the first themes discussed by speakers on stage, namely: Gwangju 2019 Vice President and Secretary General Dr Cho Young Teck, Budapest 2017 Organising Committee CEO Eva Szanto, Budapest 2017 Organising Committee CFO Sandor Balogh, FINA Bureau Member Tamas Gyarfas and Fukuoka 2021 Organising Committee Deputy Executive Director Shoji Shimokawa.
Dr Cho introduced the Gwangju 2019 plans and venues for next year’s World Championships whose slogan is “Dive into Peace.
“History has shown that no city wants to organise an event of such importance as a one-off. We want a lasting legacy for the region and the nation because of the investment and commitment we put into the project. In Gwangju we want to make sure the FINA World Championships leaves sustainable benefits for our city. The Athletes’ Village for example will be transformed into apartments for our citizens. I encourage all bidding and hosting cities to have this discussion beforehand to ensure a strong legacy for their future.”
Tamas Gyarfas, heavily involved in Budapest 2017 World Championships organisation in July 2017 gave an emotional presentation about his memories of this event.
“As the Organisers we were proud to take the challenges of organising the World Championships in such short-notice. It was magical to sit at the Duna Arena with a fantastic atmosphere and we are sad that these are only memories now. We are missing the buzz and the drive that proceeded the world class event. We are now left with a wonderful venue, the Duna Arena which was constructed in a record time.”
“Last year’s event in Budapest has left us with strong legacies that we are trying to build on for the future. I would like to highlight the impact this event has had on our city. First, it has raised the profile of the city and helped to reposition it on the sports world map. It has enhanced our city’s exposure and provided worldwide visibility to some iconic venues of the capital like the City Park and Margaret Island where the water polo tournament was played. As mentioned by Mr Gyarfas, the incredible Duna Arena complex has been regularly staging high performances events since then. We have also tried to build on that emotional link that the Championships has left for the citizens and the visitors.” Eva Szanto added.
“The social impacts are also important. The local engagement and positive national self-image and pride was unpreceded. The knowledge transfer cannot be neglected too. The impact on tourism is undoubtedly very important” she finished.
The morning concluded with a presentation about the on-site fan experience and creating memories of a lifetime at aquatic events. Enhancing the on-site experience for fans through innovations and new technologies was on the agenda of that presentation led by Gracenote Sports Managing Director Guido Bouw, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee Manager Kiho Abe and FINA High Diving Committee and Red Bull Cliff Diving Consultant Joey Zuber. Mr Bouw explained how big data can improve an organisation with its fan experience.
“At Gracenote we collect data, live data, results and soft data that can be delivered into a feed that makes sense for our clients. Data is useless until you analyse it and transform it into information. Most of the time it has to be interpreted by human beings. Our role is to bring data into a story that resonates with the audience and the fans. The ultimate objective is to drive fan engagement with the data collected. Data has the power to feed the interest of your followers.”
High diving expert Joey Zuber talked about what makes up for the fans experience in this particular sport.
“In high diving, most divers come from an entertainment background which really helps with the show. They are performers and strong personalities themselves which is a great asset because they all have a story to tell. In this discipline, the athletics skills, impressive backdrops and the show presentation are of utmost importance to ensure a great experience for the spectators together with a thoughtful marketing strategy to promote the event in the host cities.”
Naturally the off-site fan experience was the next topic that highlighted the first conference day in Hangzhou. NBC Olympics Executive Vice President Peter Diamond, FINA Head of Marketing and Broadcasting Peter Hall and WFSGI Head of Strategy and External Affairs Emma Mason presented ideas about interacting with the fans of the world before, during and after an event in particular through social media engagement. Peter Diamond reviewed all the innovations aquatics has seen since the 1992 Olympic Games and emphasised how much they have contributed to enhance the fan experience remotely, through TV or other streaming platforms.
“I think it is important to look at the key elements to showcase an event on TV. The introduction of new camera positions to provide wide, for example, basic and moving shot, slow motion and of course the underwater camera first used in Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. The latest filming innovations introduced in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta such as the dive camera have significantly improvde the coverage of aquatics. And I have to say FINA has been a leader in the innovations sector. Offering profiles, interviews and behind the scene for the people to get to know the athletes are really popular nowadays. Taking the spectators to places they would never see from the stands is key. This is the essence of the fans experience. Graphics, World Records splits and name display enhance the presentation and highly improve the experience.”
Emma Mason presented a brand-new innovation currently being developed in the U.S. for American football. The players can now wear a t-shit that has an embedded HD camera and microphone link with a spectator sat anywhere in the stands to follow the game from the inside, feeling the hits, actions and emotions within the heart of the game. She admitted that this technology would be challenging to adapt in the aquatic world however she assured that a lot of sporting goods and sensor equipped products could be developed specifically for aquatic sports.
The last big theme of the day that was addressed was digital and social media which is a topic Alisport CMO Wang Yiming, APAC Chief Digital Strategist Joe Peng and Mailman Director of Operations Rufio Zhu master. The latest online behaviours were studied in order to best take advantage of the increasing power of digital in sport. Joe Peng analysed a famous P&G advert for the Olympics “Thank You Mom”. He looked at the creativity of the concept and the audience and targeted group to explain how personalisation of the content is incredibly important. Sharing personal stories about the athletes so the audience can identify was also discussed. Sharing daily life, birthday parties and other non-sport related topics hook the fans and potential new followers.
Rufio Zhu concluded the session by speaking about e-commerce and its exponential growth in the Chinese market and the role sport has had in this development.
Before the 5th FINA World Aquatics Convention 2018 was officially declared open by FINA President Julio C. Maglione (opening remark below) and other Chinese authority representatives, the interview of the day focused on FINA Athletes Committee Chairperson and swimming gold medallist Penny Heyns of South Africa and compatriot swimming star Cameron Van der Burgh.
The two athletes were questioned about what’s next in a sportsperson’s career when they retire. Penny Heyns started: “For me, when I decided to retire, it was a very intense time: First I had to move back to South Africa after 8 years outside my country. I was questioning who I was, as a person outside swimming, because most people know us only as swimmers.
“The identity of the athlete is very important. You also need to know what is going to happen to your body first of all, when you stop intense daily training and then your mental health. Sports psychiatry needs to be further developed. The IOC has an athletes career programme which some federations could also apply but we need to help athletes to figure out who they are and support them for their reconversion.
“As elite sportsmen and women we acquire skills that are absolutely transferable into the business world such as mental toughness.
“To athletes looking at retire I would say to enjoy your swimming career as long as you can and take the time to prepare in a practical way for when your retirement.”
Cameron van der Burgh emphasised: “It is important to have a plan B for when you retire and think about your future before you actually arrive to this point. I gave myself the opportunity to plan the next four years of my life. I studied finance when I was younger and that kick in investing that you get in finance gives me that rush of adrenaline that I get from swimming that is why I enjoy this new career. You really need to give yourself the time and reflexion to transition.”
He added: “Swimmers rely a lot on organisations such as FINA. A little bit of guidance and understanding to figure out what you want to do from the administrators is a great thing.
“My most valuable skill learnt in swimming is time management. When you plan ahead you can manage a lot better your time and achieve a lot of stuff in a day. Weekly planning has also enabled me to take more on my plate.”
Opening remarks from President Maglione
“After this very exciting first day, I have the pleasure to officially open the fifth edition of our FINA World Aquatics Convention. This is the third time that this milestone is held in conjunction with our FINA World Swimming Championships (25m). Both in Doha 2014 and Windsor 2016, this led to a great success, offering a bigger visibility to the two events. I have no doubt that Hangzhou will also be a notable achievement!
“The business opportunities with commercial partners, connected (or not) to our Sport, are a privileged way to put together all those in charge of promoting and popularise Aquatics on a global scale. This co-operation is essential to keep FINA as a pillar of the Olympic movement. Aquatics brings a significant added-value to the Games programme and the attractiveness of our disciplines is enjoyed by many hundreds of million TV viewers and digital fans around the planet.
“But despite our rich past, we need to constantly establish new strategies and goals for the future, so that we can find the best possible way to enhance the importance of Sport, of FINA and its National Federations. “Your success is part of FINA’s achievement in the international sport environment. The stronger FINA is, the better you can also develop your activities on a local, national and regional basis.
“On this occasion, I warmly thank the municipal authorities in Hangzhou and the national authorities in China for their co-operation in staging this Aquatic Festival. Our gratitude also goes to the China
Swimming Association, our very respected partner in this beautiful country.” Around 1200 delegates, 400+ organisations, 300+ international Head Coaches and National Federations are taking part in this top-notch event that will run until Monday December 10.