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Online Events: A Brief Hype or Sustainable New Event Type?

Published: 2021-04-25
Online Events: A Brief Hype or Sustainable New Event Type?
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By Kenneth Schunken

Traditional events take place in a nice venue and athletes compete in a predetermined field of play. The audience present gives a certain excitement to the whole experience an athlete is facing while competing. One day, the world was overwhelmed with competitions in all kind of sports, 7 days a week, 365 days a year! The next day, the world was faced with a terrible pandemic that changed the world of sports. For a long time, no competitions were possible and athletes were not able to do what they do best: compete! Some sports found alternative ways for their athletes to practice and compete: online competitions!

Sports in which the athletes get scored by judges have the potential to go online. What started in a Taekwondo club somewhere in Ireland ended up in a whole range of online international Taekwondo competitions. Worldwide Sports Online in collaboration with Lents Taekwondo organized an online competition which turned out as the most popular recurring event. In the last year alone, more than 2,500 athletes from over 60 different countries worldwide participated.

So how does it work? It’s actually very simple: athletes register and pay online, shoot their video by phone and upload it on YouTube. During competition time, the videos are being shown on YouTube and Facebook in a live broadcast and the referees located all over the world score the athletes in real time. At the end of the competition, the medal winners receive their medal by registered post. During competition, social medial platforms are used to broadcast the event as well as for publication purposes. Results of the athletes are celebrated online by posting small videos of the medal winners, photos and re-posting of messages athletes on their own social media platforms. The promo video of one of the events was viewed more than 102.000 times within 2 months.

To host an online event, specific software is needed. WCompetition is a Colombian based company that offers an easy to use software solution for online remote scoring. Referees located in different worldwide can score the athletes in real-time. Via YouTube and Facebook, a link is made to broadcast the event online in order for the participants to follow the event in real time. At the end, the medal winners are announced at the different social media platforms.

A fair question to raise is the sustainability of online events once regular real-life events start again. The experience of Worldwide Sports Online is that not only the athletes that normally in real-life events participate registered for the online events. A large group of athletes, normally not able or willing to go to real-life events are being motivated to participate at these relatively cheap online events. Participating at a real-life event easily cost more than 500 – 600 euro. Travelling, accommodation, food and participation with 2 or 3 family members can be a burden while the entry fee for an online event varies between 25 and 90 euro.

Another development that might impact the sustainability of online events is the global organization of sports in general. Traditionally, International Federations have countries as members. The main focus of these International Federations is organizing events for their elite athletes. Some focus also on other target groups, but in general it is fair to say that most athletes are not necessarily member of a federation. These athletes at located at the bottom of the pyramid, they have no Olympic ambitions but just want to practice and compete at events in their own sport. Online events offer them a possibility to do that at a fair price and in an easy way.

Kenneth Schunken is Director-General at World Taekwondo Europe and responsible for legal matters and events. He also was the competition manager for Taekwondo at both the inaugural European Games in Baku as well as during the Asian Indoor Games in Turkmenistan. In addition, as owner of Worldwide Sports Online, Kenneth is organizing online events in Taekwondo, Karate, Afro Dance and Urban dance.