Expert network: organising the 2023 Skydiving Championships in Norway
It was over dinner back in 2018 - at the 1st FAI European Indoor Skydiving Championships at VossVind wind tunnel in Norway - that Andreas Hemli, Trude Sviggum and Hans Christian Amlie conspired to put in a bid to host the FAI European Artistic Events and Formation Skydiving Championships and World Cups. Their bid was successful, and the FAI Skydiving Commission (ISC) entered the competition in the calendar for 2021. Planning began in earnest, but in 2020, Covid struck. The world changed, and so did the FAI air sports calendar. Thankfully, Team Voss kindly agreed to postpone the event until 2023...
Renegotiating with the local council, securing sponsors, media coverage and recruiting volunteers were all covered by various team leaders, who kept up momentum and maintained focus during the extra two years' planning time.
And so it was that from 22-26 August 2023 312 participants representing 14 countries gathered in Voss, Bergen, Norway, the 'Adventure Capital of Norway' to compete in the four competitions:
- 12th FAI European Artistic Events Championships
- 14th FAI World Cup of Artistic Events
- 15th FAI European Formation Skydiving Championships
- 23rd FAI World Cup of Formation Skydiving
The event was very well received, running smoothly despite challenging weather, because of course that detail had been planned for too! The Dutch national skydiving team commented: “A big thank you to the organization @worldcupvoss2023 and the most beautiful drop zone we’ve seen @skydivevoss for the smooth operation this week... Big shout out to the organisation.”
In the following interview, Hans Christian Amlie kindly shares his reflections, in order to help future FAI championship event hosts:
The 2023 FAI European Artistic Events and Formation Skydiving Championships and World Cups were postponed from 2021 to 2023 thanks to Norway’s cooperation. Can you tell us how the postponement affected the planning?
Going from 3 years of planning to 5 was tough but had positive sides. We of course got more time for detailed planning and testing of different parts of the event, but at the same time we needed to reboost the organisation to remain motivated and keep up the very good work.
We needed to anchor our event again for 2023 as all competitions were up in the air. We made sure we had constructive dialogue with Larry Hill at Skydive Arizona, who was to host the World Championships in 2022, to make sure our planning was retained during the ISC plenary.
So communication was key. How did you find the interaction with local authorities and the airfield, were these organisations fully supportive of the event?
We had strong support from the Voss municipality hosting such an event. Voss is well known for hosting sport events within freestyle skiing and they host international events like Ekstremsportsveko (for air sports, watersports and mountain biking) every year. The council is used to the support such an event requires. They also sponsored us with funding to help us financially.
The other air sport clubs on the airfield were also very supportive before and during the event, helping with fuel planning, electrical plan demos and so on.
Tell us about the team, did you find it easy to recruit sufficient volunteers?
We had a wonderful team, organised as per the graphic below.
Once Andreas, Trude and I decided to bid, we started working on a plan and recruiting the right people. The first milestone was to get this approved by the Norwegian NAC to be able to send a bid to ISC for the event.
With a small country like Norway with only 20 skydiving clubs and about 2000 active skydivers it was easy to have the tight network to recruit the right people for the right roles.
Trude had all the required connections with the FAI Skydiving Commission, and with Andreas as General Manager of Skydive Voss and elected member of the Voss Municipality Board we had a good start.
We then cherry-picked from the most experienced skydivers and resources across Norway. Erik Ulateig was COO of the 2016 Lillehammer Youth Olympic Games and a mentor on organising large events.
He had responsibility for communication with the Ministry of Culture and Equality and negotiated funding on a national level.
Rolf Liland, former President of the Norwegian NAK, retired F16 fighter pilot and Boeing 737-pilot was responsible for all communication with the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority and the Norwegian Air Force.
Kari Traa and Hans E Eide – two earlier Olympic gold and silver medallists in Mogul skiing handled sponsorships for the event. Rune Røksund and Per Børre Kiserud, working within media, made sure we got the event on national TV and made the sponsors happy!
Carl Erik Tuv as Meet Director and I had thought about doing this event for 20 years. It was about time to put action behind our words. Carl Erik is known from the Formation Skydiving team Deland Norgies in the late 90s. Carl Erik had Vibeke Valle (experienced Norwegian Nationals Meet Director) as his right hand.
Finally, we hired a Project Manager who had no knowledge of skydiving at all: Victor Engholmen had lots of experience organising football and ski festivals for kids.
In the core committee, between us we had accumulated about 33.000 jumps and competed in about 30 FAI category 1 events. A solid skydiving and competition background alongside professional careers outside the skydiving society.
Volunteers are always tough to recruit, but we got a perfect partnership with a local organisation at Voss for people who had struggled with substance addiction. These guys fed everyone every day and were also responsible for cleaning the arena. A big kudos to them!
It sounds like sponsorship was a successful aspect of the event, how did you attract partners?
Our major sponsors were Ministry of Culture and Equality, Voss Energy, Vekselbanken, Voss Municipality and the Norwegian NAK. The public entities had formal application processes and when negotiating with local private companies we used our local network to secure the deals.
We had a clear value proposition and “reason to buy” with core media coverage.
What were the most challenging aspects of the organisation and how did you overcome them?
We had critical challenges with landowners close to the drop zone. They respectfully wanted to use the land for other purposes, but Voss Municipality has regulated the area for air sports and other uses. As the long term municipal plan went out in June 2023, two months before our postponed event, it took a lot of work to safeguard our event.
And the weather: always the great unknown! How did you plan a) in advance and b) during the competition, to adapt to the forecast?
As soon as we started planning for the bid we went into a historical weather database and analysed the best weather period at Voss. This was May, June and late August and September. We chose August in the hopes of encountering the predicted weather conditions.
Of course, in Norway we are experienced in this, but the teams who are used to jumping in pure blue skies over flat lands would find jumping at Voss challenging. So, we started by informing the teams at the event prior to ours (in Eloy Arizona) what they could expect in Voss. This helped the teams mentally prepare to jump in more challenging, cloudy conditions. We also put a super experienced manifester Phoebe, to run manifest and our “Voss Tower” and Gareth to handle coms with all planes. Gareth has flown Caravan and dropped skydivers over Voss for many years.
Then during the competitions we monitored windy.com and other weather portals to plan the following day and communicate info to the competitors and judges.
During operations we had a main jump run for the day on a 270 track, and on challenging broken cloud layers we gave each plane an offset to start their jump to drop in no cloud areas, but always on a 270 ° track.
Finally, any words of wisdom for future event organisers?
Yes! These are my three key takeaways from the experience:
- Hire a project manager from outside skydiving to drive all processes before, during and after the event.
- Set an organisational hierarchy with clear responsibilities and mandates.
- Make sure to have fun as you deliver the best you possibly can!
Image credit: Rolf Liland