Szeged is considered by many to be the home of canoe sprint, and had the chance to show why when world championship organisers took the opportunity to take future championship hosts behind the scenes.

Almost 400 organisers and 160 volunteers worked hard in August to welcome more than 1,100 athletes from nearly 100 countries at the main canoeing event of this calendar year, the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships in Szeged, Hungary.

During these five race days, alongside the athletes and the thousands of spectators, there were some special guests to be hosted by the organising committee: the observers. 

The observers are future organisers of major international canoeing events, who are keen to gather information and learn the best practices first-hand, which they can apply when organising their competitions in the near future. 

The observer program was launched by the International Canoe Federation (ICF) in 2011 and is run jointly with the host organisers of the world championships each year. The main goal of the ICF is to facilitate and educate future world championship host organising committees through a systematic transfer of knowledge and key learnings.

The program consists of an integrated series of presentations and site visits from key people of the organising committee. The concept is built around a “one stop shopping” approach to make the information gathering central and streamlined.

This year 12 observers from five countries visited Szeged to attend the sessions of the programme, including secretary-generals and ex-Olympians:

  • Organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (Japan)

  • Organisers of the 2021 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships (Copenhagen, Denmark)

  • Organisers of the 2022 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships (Halifax, Canada)

  • Organisers of the 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships (Duisburg, Germany)

  • Organisers of the 2023 ICF Junior and U23 Canoe Sprint World Championships (Auronzo, Italy) 

The series of sessions were held for two consecutive days on Thursday and Friday, with the intention of avoiding the busy weekend days, but letting the observers see the real processes. The schedule allowed many key people from the Hungarian Organising Committee to take part in the program and to give insight into the work of their respective divisions.

The programme was jointly coordinated by Hengameh Ahadpour from the ICF, and by Bálint Szakács from the host organisers’ side. Eleven different ICF and Hungarian OC experts held presentations and gave site visits to the observers, so the programme could cover almost all the areas of organisation the guests wanted to hear and know about. 

“It’s never easy for the key people of the organising committee to find time during the busy competition days, so I am extremely happy that so many of our colleagues could take part in this project,” Bálint Szakács said. 

Topics included ticketing, security, TV and media, marketing, and volunteer management, among others. Additionally, the observers could visit the accreditation centre, the TV production areas, media centre and the medal ceremony area during the competition, so they could really see what was going on ‘outside the classroom’.

“Our aim was to organise this world championships as perfectly as possible, taking care of every little detail, and the observer program was no exception. We find it important to share the best practices with future organisers, which will hopefully lead to better and better international competitions, further strengthening our sport,” Szakács said.

Since now the 2019 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships came to an end, it’s time for the observers to put their experience and learnings into practice and pass the knowledge to the future organisers through their own observer programs.


Canoe Sprint
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