Western goes for gold in pitch competition

University of Michigan Kinesiology Department//Special to Western NewsWestern students Aryan Eftekhari, Swarali Patil, Nicole Baranowski and Kerri Bodin present their bid for the fictitious 2028 Global Games in Toronto at the inaugural University of Michigan Sporting Event Bid Competition. The team took top spot of the 16 teams from across North America.

Thanks to a team of Western students, the Global Games are coming to Toronto in 2028 – at least they would be, if they were real.

Western students Aryan Eftekhari, Swarali Patil, Nicole Baranowski and Kerri Bodin took top honours for their bid for the fictitious 2028 Global Games at the inaugural University of Michigan Sporting Event Bid Competition earlier this month in Ann Arbor, Mich. The team beat out 16 teams from across North America.

The competition required participants to submit host city bids in line with conditions laid down to host major sporting events such as the FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, Pan-American Games or Commonwealth Games.

Graduate students Bodin and Patil, along with undergraduate students Baranowski and Eftekhari, decided to bring the games to Toronto. Their 30-page, detailed bid included everything from a games timeline, an athlete’s village, major venue construction, ticket sales, public relations and closing ceremony plans.

“It seemed like a great opportunity, right off the bat, and certainly did not disappoint,” Bodin said. “The project was unique in the sense we don’t often have the opportunity to participate in competitions like this. It was an engaging way to think about issues we are taught in class and read about in articles.”

Western was one of three teams selected – and the only Canadian team – from the original 16 submissions, to travel to the University of Michigan to present their bid. They faced off against teams from Ohio University and the University of Texas at Austin.

“Staging these large events poses problems that often seem insurmountable,” said Michigan Sport Management professor Stefan Szymanski, competition founder and judge. “In tackling these problems, our student teams have shown it is possible to find imaginative ways to meet the challenge.”

Facing off against U.S. universities can create an ‘underdog’ feeling for Canadian schools, said Kinesiology professor Laura Misener, the team’s faculty supervisor.

Simple things, such as having to have a 90,000-seat stadium, are not so simple in a Canadian context. Yet, they were part of the bid requirement. Take Texas, a potential host site that could offer up one of the five stadiums of that size. Canada’s largest sporting facility is the 56,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton.

“Nowhere in Canada is there such a thing – nor do we have any reason to have one,” Misener said.

“It forced them to rise to the occasion. They worked hard to stack up against these schools and that served them well. They went above and beyond, and that’s a testament to the sort of students they are. They are very diligent and really wanted it to look as realistic and professional as possible.”

In recent years, the cost of hosting large events has escalated and, increasingly, host cities face significant budget constraints. The team had to find ways to organize the event in a way that does not impose an unsustainable long-term burden on the host.

With Western home to the International Centre for Olympic Studies, the students had access to previous bids, not to mention the sounding board of the centre’s Founding Director Kinesiology professor Bob Barney and current Director Kinesiology professor Michael Heine.

“It’s clear that all the students who submitted bids worked really hard on the competition,” said SEBC judge Bill Martin, U.S. Olympic Committee board member. “The excellence of their work – and of the finalists’ work in particular – speaks volumes about the level of talent that’s about to enter the sport industry.”

“It was a great team experience. The project was an exercise in brainstorming, working together and problem-solving over a number of months. It reminded me that teamwork is key,” Bodin said. “We had a great team that got along well and supported each other, which definitely made our success possible.”

Baranowski agreed. “This whole experience allowed to me realize how many people it takes to put together a really good project. This was a great opportunity to meet new friends, improve my time-management skills and get more of an insight on the process that takes place to plan and coordinate an event of this size. It was a unique experience.”