We don't really ask ourselves the question anymore because things seem normal and natural. Yet behind the normality of the pristine look of all the events on the world circuit, there is work, a lot of work, an enormous amount of work, even. If there is the tip of the iceberg, to sum up, all that we see on the tatami and the performance of the athletes, there is also the incredible amount of preparation carried out by the IJF team and the local organising committees of each of the events of the World Judo Tour. Two people can talk about it in depth, Dr Lisa Allan, the IJF Events Director, and Claudiu Chimoiu, the IJF Executive Event Producer.
Claudiu Chimoiu, Dr Lisa Allan and Tibor Janity

For Lisa Allan, there is above all an amazing synergy between all the stakeholders in the organisation of a world circuit event, "What is important is that during the whole preparation phase we try to understand and imagine what the logistics will be. We have to imagine the flow that delegations will follow from their arrival at the airport until their departure. Of course this includes the main part, which is the competition itself. Last but not least, there is what we offer the public to see, inside the venue and outside of it, through all our communication channels.

The important thing is to establish the list of key contacts and to create the conditions of a powerful organisational partnership between the IJF and the local organisers. It works because we are together; that is the main reason. Each time, we need to understand the respective cultures and traditions we have to work with and for that an open communication is not only necessary but compulsory. We have so much experience, years of experience, that we can solve anything. I am convinced of that.

Then of course, we need to rely on the heads of each department within our organisation. Everyone knows their job."

To be practical, that means o lot of steps, as Claudiu Chimoiu explained, "When we organise a new event, as will be the case in Austria and Tajikistan, later this year, once the contract with the local organisers is signed, we launch the process. Generally speaking, six months prior to the competition, we have a first important inspection visit. Six months can be considered long but it actually is not because we have a lot to check and prepare, while we have other events running.

So, six months before, we go to the country and there we proceed with a thorough inspection. That includes the venue of course and warmup areas, but also the hotels, the different facilities that are going to be needed before, during and after the competition. This goes from working rooms, anti-doping facilities and draw rooms to official weigh-in rooms, for instance. We really have to see everything, lights, sound system, power, to be sure that all the capacities and requirements are fulfilled.

When it comes to focussing on the judo itself, we need to determine the precise flow of the competition. Exactly where will be the tatami? On which side will be the official and technical tables, the podium? Those are some of the questions we ask ourselves. This helps us to determine the pre-set-up of the venue and give a first draft to the organising committee to start working on.

Obviously, there is a big part of that visit which is dedicated to the broadcast of the event. So we meet the host broadcaster in order to determine the TV camera plan. We have strong requirements that are compulsory if we want to deliver a product that is useful for the TV channels and is attractive to the public.

We also visit the respective hotels that are going to be used for the different categories of people attending the competition and we have meetings with all the authorities involved."

From there begins a weekly, if not daily, workflow between the IJF and the local organisers, "After this first visit, I am in permanent contact with the organisers. We draft all the layouts, the venue dressing, in other words, the 'look and feel,’ what the public will actually see. Many decisions have to be taken.

Vlad Marinescu, IJF Director General and Claudiu Chimoiu

One month before the competition, we finalise the layout. A huge coordination between everyone is needed. From there on, we can start printing all the material. We have to be sure that sponsors are visible, that advertising boards will be in the right places. We need to be sure that we put the right amount of energy where it's needed. Once the competition starts, there is no room for improvisation, only for adaptation. The more we work in an aligned way, the better it is. What is important for us is to know exactly what we need and what the organising committees can deliver. In any case, we don't want to lower the level of the production. This is crucial."

It is a few days prior to the kick-off of the competition that the actual work on the field starts, "Three or four days prior to the first final block on day 1, we are there on-the-spot and we work countless hours. The process of installation begins. We first start with the lights inside the venue. We need to be sure that not a single corner of the tatami will be darker than any others. Then we set up the tatami by the millimetre. After that comes all the cabling, TV, power, Internet, carpets, LEDs and it goes on and on until every detail is fixed. We need to adjust everything before we practise with the TV. 24 hours before the first final block we have our full rehearsal and a few hours later, lights go on and the show goes on."

After 13 years working with the IJF, Claudiu has seen a massive evolution, "To be honest, there is a big difference between when I started and now; a positive evolution of course. We started filming our events with 6 cameras, whereas now we have 15 cameras. It is almost one camera per square metre of tatami covered. This is impressive. We have a graphic package, 3D graphics, we offer more flexibility between the database and the graphics during the live, so we can offer more information for the viewers. The look and feel has improved a lot. We were able to maximise the exposure of sponsors, partners and of judo, of course.

There is still a place for improvement and this is what we are constantly working on."

Judo has been more and more successful over the years, thanks to the great involvement of everyone at all levels, "The good thing with judo is that we are a true family," concluded Lisa Allan, before adding, "Everyone is so happy to just be part of the show. Yes, there is a lot of work, but there is also pleasure and passion. We never face a situation where we don't have enough volunteers, for instance. Here in Portugal, we have a lot of young volunteers helping our team. This is fantastic. It's about technique and meetings and preparation. It is also about the manpower. I should say the human power of being together and building the future together."

More images of the Grand Prix Portugal 2023 - CLICK HERE

In the meantime during the Grand Prix Portugal 2023

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