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Ultimate frisbee’s road to the Olympics: Organising the 2014 World Ultimate Club Championships

Category : Sport, Ultimate Frisbee · by Jun 23rd, 2014

WUCC 2014 LogoIn the months leading up the 2014 World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC), one of the primary tournament directors, Jose Antonio de los Rios shed some light on how the preparations were going and how important this edition of WUCC really is. The event will take place in Lecco, Italy from the 2nd to the 9th of August.

A Spanish native, Jose Antonio de los Rios began his venture into tournament organisation back in 2004. His long list of accolades includes organising local club tournaments, various Spanish national events, the 2010 European Club Championship, and the latest and largest, the European Championships of Beach Ultimate (ECBU) which took place in late June of last year. When approached with the opportunity of being tournament director for the World Championships De los Rios met the proposal with slight trepidation, “I just finished organising ECBU and I was a little worn out so I wasn’t too keen to commit myself to another big project.” But after hearing how important WUCC 2014 is to the progression of the sport, De los Rios had a change of heart.

Jose Antonio De los Rios organising La Abuela, the annual tournament in Madrid hosted by the Quijotes + Dulcineas

Jose Antonio De los Rios organising La Abuela, the annual tournament in Madrid hosted by the Quijotes + Dulcineas

This edition of the World Championships happens to fall within the two year provisional trial period granted by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Thanks to this endeavour the organisers face some extra pressure in making sure the event goes off without a hitch.  According to De los Rios, the event will be under major scrutiny as the sport faces potential Olympic status, “Lecco is going to be the definitive trial, the most important event in these two trial years.” De los Rios continued, “There will definitely be members of the IOC at WUCC 2014.” The event will be seeing some big changes as the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) strives to meet the criteria to ultimately become part of the Olympic family.

An important issue to grace the upcoming international event is arbitration. Since even before the sport received recognition from the IOC many in the ultimate community have expressed concerns that as the sport continues to grow it may lose its self-refereed culture, referred to as the Spirit of the Game. According to De los Rios the WFDF is addressing this issue of contention, “within the WFDF there is a committee that is studying the possibility of having observers or referees.” This committee is called Task Force and it was put into place to reaffirm the Spirit of the Game as well as ensure that players will continue  to play a fair game, whether that be with arbitration or not. In the WFDF Congress Presentation about the IOC recognition the president of the Federation, Robert Rauch was clear in stating, “No, Ultimate doesn’t have to have referees in order to be included in the Olympics someday.” After all, it was ultimate frisbee’s dedication to Spirit of the Game that encouraged the IOC to grant the sport provisional recognition.

Task Force have been developing potential revisions to the rules and there is speculation that there may be referees or observers present and involved in games at WUCC 2014.Nothing is certain as Task Force will be submitting a final report regarding the potential changes to the WFDF at the end of the month. These recommendations will be reviewed at the WFDF 2014 Congress, a conference that will take place during WUCC 2014 in Lecco. Representatives from all ultimate federations will attend.

wada-adAnother big change that will be seen at WUCC 2014 will be the presence of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA). In order for ultimate frisbee to have received recognition the WFDF had to sign on to the WADA’s code. According to De los Rios, having done so could mean drug tests at WUCC 2014.

With all these changes to the sport taking place at WUCC 2014 the IOC will definitely have something to look at, “I think the drug testing and the matter of the referees will be two key points for whether ultimate can make the jump toward professionalism and the IOC.”

The WFDF gave the major responsibility of organising the 2014 World Ultimate Club Championships to Ultimatevents, an Italian-based company established by Massimiliano Vitali and Gemma Perez, two high-level European ultimate players. The company works in event management but specialises in ultimate frisbee. Ultimatevents have run ultimate frisbee events all over the world, including the 2010 Under 23 World Championships, the 2011 World Championships of Beach Ultimate, as well as various clinics. Vitali is an accomplished ultimate frisbee player and is internationally recognised for many efforts surrounding the frisbee community. De los Rios commented on working with Ultimatevents saying, “I like the way they look at things. They don’t limit themselves to one tournament, they think about the future and they have good ideas.” All in all it seems the event is in good hands, a positive thing for the sport’s potential Olympic status.

The organising committee is comprised of ten people, as for De los Rios he is in charge of the athletic side of things, “My role is strictly sports, it’s all the work we have to do so that everything sport-related about the tournament is carried out correctly.” In the months leading up to the event De los Rios has been busy, “The preparatory work is very important but during the tournament there are moments of crisis, stressful moments.” At the time of the interview De los Rios was busy organising the tournament schedule, “There are 34 fields in total and so it’s important work because we have to manage all the times, which teams play on each field, we have to make it so that each division is changing fields so that they don’t always play on the same field, etc.-  It’s interesting work.” When it comes to the event itself De los Rios has his work cut out for him, “There is a lot of work with 34 games happening each round, we have to have everything up to date straight away, make sure the score keepers are doing their job,” De los Rios explained, “It’s a ton of work that takes place during the tournament.”

With ultimate looking to meet the criteria set by the IOC everything about the sport is becoming more professional, “If ultimate is becoming more and more professional the people that organise tournaments and events will have to be professional as well.” The organising committee of WUCC 2014 is putting everything about ultimate frisbee on a more professional level, “I think it’s going to be very interesting because, for example, the company that was hired to take care of the water at the Sochi and London Olympics will be in Lecco.” This company will manage the water supply for all 34 fields, “It’s enormous, water is very important for a tournament.”

Ultimate frisbee is up for permanent approval from the IOC in 2015. In the meantime organisers are looking at making WUCC 2014 an event to remember. When asked how he felt about the event’s importance De los Rios answered saying “Lecco will be the biggest event that will take place in these two years so it’s definitely a challenge, and very important for the sport.”

Check out the WUCC 2014 event page for more info!

Note: This article was written for Exclusive Sports Media.

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Hi, I'm Hannah, a London-based copywriter and blogger. I am a Canadian ex-pat whose interests range from food and travel, to ultimate frisbee, and sailing. As an avid traveller, food enthusiast, and sports-person I seek to write cutting-edge articles about athletes and sporting events, as well as travel destinations, tips, and culinary havens. If you like my writing and want to get in touch about freelance work or other job opportunities, don't hesitate to contact me!