13 October 2022

How it works: serving the people

From July 8 to 17, 2023, the World Para Athletics Championships – PARIS’23 will be in full swing. To best organize this event, an organizing committee was set up in April 2022. But then, what are the different poles of this organization? What are its basic missions? During the whole month of October, we tell you everything! So come and discover the many facets that make up the Organizing Committee of the World Paralympic Athletics Championships (COMAP).

On the picture, it is Mathilde Wieja, responsible for the service to the populations. She is in front of green shrubs, has hair that falls over her shoulders and is brown. She smiles and wears a white blouse with blue flowers on it.

For the second presentation of the series, we met with Mathilde Wieja, Population Services Manager.

Hello Mathilde, to begin with, can you explain to us what is the role of the service to the populations within COMAP?

Mathilde Wieja : “The people service is in charge of accommodation, transportation and catering for all accredited people at the event. This includes athletes, organizing staff, referees and volunteers. The objective is to take stock of all the data and to organize them as well as possible so that, outside of the sporting competition, people are in the best possible condition to perform or do their work.”

How many people are in the department?

M.W : “There are three of us working full time with Laura and Luc. But we also work with the Spartner agency to manage the delegation part. We are constantly in touch with them to manage the accommodation and transportation of the athletes.”

What are the missions of the department?

M.W : “At first, we will try to find potential volumes to contact hotels, negotiate accommodation contracts, but also find catering providers by providing them our needs. We have to understand everyone’s needs, because we are not going to feed the athletes in the same way as we feed the VIPs or the staff for example.
We are in constant contact with the agency that manages the delegations to manage the transportation of sports equipment. And afterwards, we make sure that everything goes well for everyone during the event and then readjust certain needs.”

How do you work to advance in the missions?

M.W : “We need to reference the needs of services and providers. We must anticipate the transportation needs of the different delegations by referring to the different disabilities of the athletes of each delegation. Some delegations will have more wheelchair athletes than others, so we do not provide the same number of adapted vehicles.

We can also try to identify tourist activities to propose to the delegations so that they have things to do outside the competition.

Before signing contracts with hotels, we carry out visits to ensure that the accommodations are adapted to welcome people with disabilities, and identify the equipment that we can also provide.

At the end of the day, it’s all about anticipating and then validating the different needs once we have the list of registrants.”

What are the specificities or particularities of the service?

M.W : “The specificity is that we take care of all the people present at the event. And in order to take care of everyone, we have to liaise with all the departments to identify all the needs before an event. We are constantly in contact with all the departments to make sure that there are no problems on the day of the event.”

What qualities and skills are required?

M.W : “We need composure because our work is a lot of waiting. Each pole has a different action plan and some poles may transmit information at the last moment. Our missions lead us to have a lot of changes and we have to be adaptable. You have to be creative to constantly have solutions when it comes to making changes.

We need to be organized because we have a lot of data to receive and organize.”

THE worst flaw for working in this department?

M.W : “Not knowing how to manage the emergency. Even if you anticipate as much as possible, this pole represents exactly the functionality of an event because even if you have organized everything beforehand, it will never work as you had planned. You have to be able to bounce back quickly because you can’t afford not to accommodate someone, or wait a day to pick someone up at the airport, or not to feed people. If you can’t anticipate and bounce back in the moment, it can’t work.”

THE situation to avoid on the day of the event?

M.W : “For us there are three:

  • That not all hotels have enough staff to accommodate our teams.
  • That all transporters go on strike.
  • And that the kitchens of our provider burn down and that we have no solution to feed all the people during the event.”