The big game

The problem
MODERN SPORTING EVENTS have grown into megaprojects. Tournaments like the FIFA World Cup or Universiade are huge investment projects that host international teams, are watched worldwide, and require vast management administrations.
With such huge costs, and equally huge potential economic benefits, the organization of such games is taken very seriously. Planning is already well underway for the 2015 Pan American Games to be hosted by Toronto.
However, with so many people involved and with so much at stake, creating an efficient framework for communication amongst the network of coordinating bodies can be a daunting task.

The researcher
Milena Parent is an expert in sports administration at the University of Ottawa’s School of Human Kinetics. She specializes in strategic management and organization theory for large-scale sporting events.

The project
By chronicling and understanding the coordination network that existed for organizing the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, Parent can develop broad network theories for the management of large-scale sporting events that can then be used by future organizers.
The city of Vancouver began planning for the 2010 Olympic Games nine years before the opening ceremonies. A total of 97 separate federal, provincial, and municipal departments were involved in the planning and those were just the governmental bodies.
The coordination network of stakeholders included sponsors, organizational committees, community groups, governmental departments, the media, and delegations of athletes. Each stakeholder had his or her own interests and each was needed for the sporting event to be a success.

The key
Traditional theory presents the organizational network as a wheel with the organizing committee as the hub and the stakeholders as spokes, but Parent found a strikingly different picture. She discovered centralized control of the planning process lay with the local communities or “people on the ground,” and consequently, played a more pivotal role than that assumed by officials.
In practice, there wasn’t one centralized hub, but rather groups that formed multiple hubs of organization. None of the hubs were well connected to the entire coordination network. Instead, each had strong ties to a handful of stakeholders. Stakeholders formed strong local contacts with each other, but these local networks were relatively independent with only weak links between them. According to Parent, organizers who bridged two or more of these local networks had some of the strongest positions in the planning process since they acted as the main lines of communications between the fractured groups.