The Winter Games are in his bones

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Winter Games boss Arthur Klap reckons most people would crack under the strain of organising this month’s event. 

It’s a sentiment that’s hard to argue with as it involves overseeing 32 sports events over 18 days in eight venues with 800 international competitors, plus a full ‘off-mountain’ programme. 

“I’m really lucky – it’s a genetic thing – to be pretty laid-back,” Klap says. 

“It would be really hard for someone else to step in and carry this stress and responsibility. 

“I’m not pushing myself forward but I think most people would buckle under it.” 

Klap has organised one-off world champs in sports such as triathlon, mountain biking, snowboarding and mountain running since 1994. 

But since late 2006, when he was asked to do a feasibility study, he’s been almost full-time on the Winter Games. 

These Games are his second, after the inaugural event two years ago. 

Klap says the Winter Games board will conduct a strategic review of the event in November. 

“It will say what worked, what didn’t, should we stay biennial or is it better to be every four years, or better to be every year, should we be in Methven, Dunedin and Naseby again or just in Queenstown or Wanaka, or should we be bigger still?” 

Klap – who did the original 20-year business plan – says “we’re still in baby-land”. 

“We’re nowhere near what the event’s going to be, where the athletes say, ‘I want to compete in the Games’. 

Klap wants the event to be financially self-sustainable by its fifth edition. 

“With the first Games’ $3.2 million budget, 11 per cent was commercial revenue. For these Games, it’s roughly a $4m budget, of which 26 per cent is commercial and with the next Games it might be a $5m budget, and we’re aiming for 50 per cent commercial.” 

Games patron, Queens-towner Sir Eion Edgar, says Klap is “by far the best” organiser he’s worked with. 

“The reason is, one, his initiative, two, he’s very cost-conscious – we’re running on the smell of half an oily rag – and three, he’s got great contacts. 

“I might have had the vision, but as for the practical nous to run it, I couldn’t even have got close to his skills in pulling people together.”

Future of Winter Games:

“It is a risk that we took, going biennial – would they come in the [Winter Olympics] off-year?
“But if the Games are to survive, they need to develop their own entity, independent of whether the Olympics are on or not
“Until people recognise that name and what it stands for, it’s got no commercial value, sponsors won’t want to be attached to it.
“It’s when people want to buy the T-shirt and go back to New York with ‘Winter Games NZ’ on it, that’s when we’ve got it – we haven’t got that yet.”

Event management:

“The skill of event management is to put on an event with the physical, financial and human resources available, and in NZ all those things are limited.
“There are limited funds, the marketing budgets of companies are limited, the number of people who live in Queenstown and Wanaka is limited, the number of people that have got the skills in international event management is limited, so you have to manage that.”

Finances:

“Really, we should be running at, say, a surplus of half a million dollars in terms of being able to carry on, whereas I’m sitting on a fence that’s got a razorblade right down it. 

“We’re running a $4m event and we’re swinging between $20,000 plus and $20,000 minus. 

“So we’ll get to the end of this year and we’ll have no assets, and that’s pretty tough.”

What central Government provides:

“We get $750,000 from NZ Major Events, $250,000 from Sparc and $100,000 from Tourism NZ. 

“That’s $1.1m or 26 per cent of the budget – it’s pretty good support.”

Television coverage:

“I wanted to have better control of the television product than last time so we’ve taken the production in-house. 

“We are producing it and we’ve contracted all the components of it. 

“We’re producing 15 programmes. 

“What we learnt from last time is it wasn’t important to be live – it’s much better to have a quality television product, properly edited. 

“Last time we only had a couple of cameras on each sport – that was being edited and cut for that night, and then we had the last day live, when the weather wasn’t that great. 

“We spent $350,000 on television last time, about $230,000 was on the live production. 

“So I’ve said, ‘no live, let’s spread that out so that every sport gets four to five cameras’. 

“We’ve set up our own production/film studio here. 

“I’ve got a team that works through the night editing that day’s coverage to be uploaded to Sky Sport for the next night. 

“So we’ll make a better product, which I’m hoping internationally will be picked up more extensively.”

On event organising:

“My phone shouldn’t ring much.

“When you get to the event, my job should just be to solve any problem, not to actually run the event, so if things come up I should be free to be able to handle those things.

“The best example is the snowstorm last week – the whole event moved on without a blink, no one in the organisation was stressed, we only lost one event in three days of cross country.

“I learnt this with my first international event in 1994.

“I learnt that you can’t afford to be in a position where to solve a problem you weaken another area.

“Since then I’ve either had one or sometimes it’s three people that I’ve called troubleshooters, someone with local knowledge – a sparkie’s quite handy.

“Geoff Hunt is my troubleshooter for this event – he could easily go through the whole event and do nothing.

“But, for example, [my wife] Lynne broke her kneecap last weekend.

“She’s in charge of the awards ceremonies, but now she can’t drive and it’s pretty hard for her to last the day, so at Snow Park last Sunday Geoff stepped into the role.”

Objectives of the Winter Games:

“It’s important to realise this is a charitable trust running this, there’s no commercially-driven focus.

“The objectives of the trust are to provide returns to the community – social, economic – and profile and benefits to the sport, profiling the sport, providing opportunities for our young people.

“During these Games we’ve got talent camps going with 13 to 18-year-olds, in alpine ski racing, freeski, snowboard, two adaptive athletes – they come in for two days.

“And we’ve got an event organisers’ day – 15 of the country’s top event managers are coming to the Games and spending a day and a half.

“I’ll take them round, they’ll meet the staff – that’s to help grow the quality of event management in NZ.”

Arthur Klap’s future:

“My contract runs out at the end of this year but I’d be keen to do another one.

“You always have to working towards making yourself redundant – the event becomes realty weak if I become indispensable.

“Once the event has stability and some commercial strength – that might be after the next Games – it’s much easier for someone to step in.”