The 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games organizing committee was forced to overcome a major hurdle recently after the group that volunteered to provide security at the athletes dorms backed out.
After months of negotiations, organizers were forced to enact their contingency plans when the long-time sponsor notified them that they would not be able to meet their obligations.
“A lot of things never happen the way you plan them,” Winter Games chairman Al Dyer says. “It’s a matter of how they turn out.”
The sponsor was originally supposed to provide 24-hour security for the athlete’s dorms throughout the week. The dorms are off-limits to anyone without proper accreditation.
“The security of these young people is paramount above anything else,” Dyer says. “We want to provide them with good competition. We want to provide them with good food. We want to make sure that they get a good night sleep. We want to make sure that they’re taken care of, but one of the key elements of that is when they’re in their house, their home away from home, that they’re safe and secure.”
Despite receiving such short notice, games organizers where able to find a satisfactory fix, partly through paid staff and partly through volunteers.
“One of the tougher parts to staff, from a volunteer perspective, is the overnight, so we were looking at having some hired or contracted security anyway,” Dyer says. “We’ve just expanded that now to more of a full-time thing and we have identified a few gaps that we’re going to fill with volunteers.”
The original deal between the games organizers and sponsor was struck last summer. The sponsors, who Dyer declined to identify, offered to provide security as part of a donation. However, a couple of weeks ago, it became apparent to the organizers that the sponsor would not be able to meet their obligations.
“In honesty, we didn’t have a lot of notice, but we had notice,” Dyer says. “Subsequent to that notice we had negotiations and those negotiations resulted in a reasonable fix. It did put us in a slightly awkward position.”
While many people might have been upset and angry with what happened, Dyer is taking it all in stride.
“You don’t enter in to anything expecting 100 per cent perfection,” he says. “It just doesn’t work that way. There are too many variables, there’s too many people, there’s so much variety and such a multitude of things that you have to anticipate.”
They games committee also says they aren’t concerned with having such a short amount of time to get their plan in place.
“We’re all satisfied that we have a good resolution,” he says. “These things are not unknown in the world of multi-sport organizations.”
Dyer is also quick to point out that the sponsor didn’t completely abandon them. He says their financial support made the contingency plan possible.
“Our supplier recognized their obligation and they’ve met it in a different way,” he says.
The change also forced them to take a closer look at their security policies, which Dyer says has been an unintended, but helpful, side effect.
“Through the review and through the discussions that we’ve had and the resources we’ve had made available to us it’s actually working out, in my mind, perhaps to a better situation than what we had before.”
The quality of the volunteers and organizing committee members also helped patch the hole left by the sponsor’s departure.
“We’re really fortunate in Prince Albert that a lot of these people have been involved in multi-sport events, or multi-functional events, over a long period of time, and they can roll with it.”
Dyer says he’s confident in the steps they’ve taken. They’ve done all the planning they can. Now they’re just concerned with implementation, which they hope will go off without any more surprises. For them, this setback was just one more step on the road to the games.
“I knew there were going to be changes and I knew there were going to be challenges,” Dyer says. “This is just one more. The sponsor is still there. They’re just supporting us in a different way.”