Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What a beautiful sane world

An article by Simon Gemel, the main organizer of the EGC-2007

In order to organise a good congress, we had to be aware of possible problems in advance. I thought that there might be some problems with the police because of some partying from the participants very late at night, disturbing the neighbours. Therefore I warned the mayor of Villach that such problems may arise, and in order to avoid unnecessary conflict, such cases should be reported to us to be taken care of before it would be passed onto the police. Fortunately the mayor agreed to this suggestion, and this was a big relieve for me. Until today (Thursday 26th July 2007), we have not been told that such incidents occurred. The owner of "Moby Dick" (a pub located near the venue, where many Go players gathered together in the evening) was thankful for the business, hence she would have not found it too bad having to pay for the noise late at night. It would have been worse to have lost the potential income by being told by the police to close at regular times.

However we were not able to predict every single problem. I would like you to take a look what happened behind the curtains.

Just a few days before the congress started, we were taken by the shock of 20 Koreans cancelling their trip including their confirmed accommodation which we had already guaranteed full payment. Since we wanted to be as helpful as possible, we accepted their wish to pay the fee on spot. Due to their absence we are responsible for the whole cancellation penalties.

We put in a lot of effort preparing for the congress however things turn out to be different when it actually happens. If our preparation could be considered as Fuseki, then it seems as though if we were already in Byo-yomi when the middle game started. The organisation team was put into massive stress before the opening of the congress. Team members were hardly able to find time to sleep – Outcome: one team member spends a night in the hospital. When I think about the speech I held at the opening ceremony, it seems as if it had happened 5 years ago. I was just about able find some time to take a shower (instead of sleeping) on the night before the ceremony. There is still no time to catch up with the sleep I need. Some unregistered go-players paid a surprise visit at 3 'o clock in the morning expecting to be told where they could find their accommodation. We created name tags with original fonts for each participant (who had filled in the appropriate column on the online registration site) from different countries in order to bring in an international flair. This was not an easy task for the IT team. Unfortunately 5% of the English (German) letters were not decoded properly, thus they had to be removed from the tags. This had been such a big problem for one participant. He requested to reprint his name tag with proper Slovakian spelling and got upset by the fact that the registration team could not take care of this problem immediately. (When this happened the team was overloaded with work, and at the same time had to solve the communication problem regarding breakfast for 20 – 30 people) "The game of Go brought great people together and you could feel safe at EGC"… no… there is a pick-pocket among us. It is very likely (99%) that 3 wallets were stolen at the congress centre. We have already warned the next EGC organisers. People should be very careful before deciding to write an invitation (necessary procedure) for somebody wishing to apply for a Visa. This is something I have not told my team until now… Our website has been accessed over 100 times by a Russian immigration platform located in USA…

But let's go back to the things which had actually happened and stop talking about things which "could have" happened. We have already faced enough trouble… A group of French participants puking out of the window late at night, some Koreans ruining the wooden floor while taking a shower (different system to that of which they are use to)… And even one of our Dutch organisers went mad late at night after quarrelling with another team member, shouting and damaging some private belongings of the accommodation and leaving Villach without returning his room key. The worst bit for me was to get out of bed and to go out onto the streets to calm them down at 03:30 in the morning after working 14 hours each day without sufficient sleep. The reason why they quarrelled does not concern me. Some people seem to think that a Go congress is an open market. For example: the organisers found out through an internet forum that a British programmer is selling his newest program at the venue without informing any one of us. This became a problem as he occupied the space we needed to use for our shop. He simply declared that he was there in the beginning hence did not want to move. One Ukrainian participant decided to sell Go books. Unfortunately some of his offers were already in the stock of our official shop, though packed in a box. He demanded us to prove him that we really have the same books.

It gets even more exciting. Nakayama Sensei from Nihon-Kiin arrives. Surprisingly he presents a Japanese letter stating who is financing his stay in Austria. This matter could have been clarified in advance, through a letter written in English. Announcement: "Doctor! Please come to the reception urgently!" A japanese child hit her head, fell unconscious. After 20 seconds of silence, she started screaming. Doctors' advise: "Go to hospital for observation". The ambulance arrives 5 minutes later. One of our team members accompanies the family to the hospital.

Before the event started, a German player known as a Japanese interpreter as well as a Children Go Operator offered his interpretation service at EGC. I declined his offer since we were low on budget and we had enough staff who could speak Japanese. He made a second attempt with another team member who ironically knew the story through the same Email correspondence. Meanwhile I got to know through one professional Go player that we should not work together with him because of two reasons. First his Japanese is not the best and second, he lacks of respect and manners. Apparently he tried to convince the professionals that he would do them a great favour by interpreting their lectures. He acts friendly, though at the same time tells them that their English is not good enough for the audience, which is not true. I stuck to my decision and did not accept this suspicious and expensive offer. Therefore he took revenge on the people who were in charge of the work he wanted to do. While Nakayama Sensei was giving a lecture, he told some Japanese audience that the interpretation of our Japanese speaking staff is totally wrong. Besides that he told some EGC participants that the whole event is an absolute mess. He even suggested people not to take part in our arranged tours such as the Salzburg trip, telling them that it is far too expensive (ˆ 99,- Villach-Salzburg-Villach, with guide and entrance fees included… As a comparison, the return train ticket costs approx. ˆ60,-) He seems to try to convince everybody that no Go congresses could be arranged properly without his help.

Our Japanese speaking staff (interpreter) is born in England, raised bilingual, and has been managing her own company (incoming tour operator mainly for the Japanese market) over 5 years. Her Go skill is at a high kyu level (near Shodan) therefore she is capable for serious interpretation with specific Go language.

By the way, the "Interpreter/Child Go Operator" from Germany was interfering with the above mentioned incident – "the child being carried to the hospital".
1. As the incident happened, he was stroking the head of the child who was brought to the hospital for hitting her HEAD.
2. We asked him to stop this action, however he replied with "Shut up" in Japanese.
3. Then he tried to snatch the screaming child away from her own mother
4. He pointed his finger to our Japanese speaking staff, telling her "you go along as a translator", though everything had already been organised before he even mentioned this.

Further, he complained about a team member who was holding a beginners workshop, claiming that she does not qualify to teach the rules of Go.

Some participants are not satisfied with the prizes we have prepared (ˆ 15,000 in total for the main tournament). Two Korean winners of the weekend tournament complained about the fact that they only got vouchers as a prize. They asked for cash in hand instead.

We are happy to announce that Jong Wook Park does not have tuberculosis. Therefore we do not have to halt the congress due to emergency. He has already left hospital, and we all wish him a fast recovery.

Please do not worry about the trouble and disasters which happened behind the curtains. Dear friends, I really wish you a good time. 70% of my vision I had for "European Go Congress 2007" has been fulfilled. This project means a lot to me, and I would be very happy to know that you are enjoying it to the fullest.

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