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Mega-Event Special Olympics 2023 - How is Berlin preparing? Interview with Carsten Kranz
Summary of the blog post
Berlin is more than just a big city, as we have previously often demonstrated, and it excels at hosting major events. So how can a city get ready for such significant events? The Special Olympics will be used to assist us convey this to you. We talked to Carsten Kranz to find out more about it. He is the Chief Operating Officer of the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 organizing committee, in responsibility of the operational implementation of the world's largest inclusive athletic event.
Carsten, can you explain us why Berlin appears to be a good fit for the Special Olympics?
“As of the earliest stages of deliberations regarding the application to host the Special Olympics World Games, it was evident to Special Olympics Germany that Berlin was the only place that could do justice as a host city.
Given its history, potential and appearance, Berlin represents the perfect city to showcase Germany to the athletes from 190 countries and the many visitors. Nevertheless, it is important to take into account the concrete facts of Berlin as a city dedicated to sports:
It boasts world-class sports facilities, the Olympiapark is a highly recommended location for many of our 26 sports, the Messe Berlin offers a large and inviting exhibition centre and is well versed in the organisation of major sporting events, it has extensive and centrally located hotel capacity and an efficient public transport network – to mention just a few aspects.”
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges in hosting a major event like the Special Olympics?
“In our case, there are four factors that cumulate, each of which adds to the complexity of planning and implementation.
1. We are a multi-sport venue
We strive to offer the best possible conditions for the athletes - in a wide range of 26 different sports. The range of sports includes sailing, golf, horse riding and popular team sports such as football, basketball and bocca - which, for the record, is a sport involving a large number of athletes.
The organisational and logistical challenges involved can be very demanding.
2. We are an international multi-sport venue
There are delegations from 190 countries taking part in the Games. We operate with as many as eight official languages. We organise digital preparation meetings for participants from different time zones. Our organising committee is a diverse team from all over the world.
3. We are a major international multi-sport event
The number of athletes taking part in the Special Olympics World Games is greater than the number taking part in the Paralympic Games. Therefore we are looking for 20,000 volunteers to help make the Games a success. Over ten days we will produce up to 500 hours of live TV feed - to drop a cue regarding three of the keywords.
4. We are a major international multi-sport venue for people with multiple disabilities
Being inclusive is our DNA. We want to do everything we can to ensure that our Games are indeed an event for athletes, by athletes.
We need to ensure that we take into account a lot of things, such as easy language, easy maps, translations and visual language for communication. The competition venues must be a safe environment. Along with accompaniment and assistance, self-empowerment is an important aspect.
And last but not least, we intend to go beyond the Games. We want to set a sustainable impetus for inclusion, in Berlin, in Germany, and around the world. To this end, there will be accompanying conference formats, school projects and, of course, a great deal of interaction and communication.”
Who are the partners you work with in the city?
“Long before the organising committee began its concrete work, we had already taken long-term decisions with regard to the most important sports venues and event locations. Among them are the Messe Berlin, the Olympic Park, the regatta course in Grünau, an Olympic stadium and many other of our partners for everything concerning the competitions.
Are my offers really barrier-free? What can I expect from people with intellectual disabilities?”
We have 43 hotels with over 85,000 overnight stays that we have booked under contract directly. In terms of transport services, we work closely with the Berlin public transport system (VBB), the Berlin public transport company (BVG) and the Berlin suburban railway (S-Bahn). Bus shuttles are provided by Berlin companies. A wide range of other event services are also provided by companies in Berlin - not all of them, some other companies are also permitted to do so - in many central areas, nonetheless. The hotel and catering industry as well as tourism providers stand to benefit from the event. In return, we would like the providers to address certain concerns in the spirit of our sustainable goals.
For example: Are my offers really barrier-free? What can I expect from people with intellectual disabilities?”
What criteria did your partners have to fulfil?
"Our hotel partners provide a good illustration of how this works:
After all, the issue of accessibility is clearly an important criterion in the selection of accommodation for our athletes. People frequently associate accessibility with wheelchairs and ramps, but accessibility encompasses much more.
Important questions regarding accessibility include:
Is it easy to find your way around the building?
Are symbols and writing simple to comprehend?
Is it simple to follow the signage?
In addition, is it possible to use a mini-fridge to store medicines?”
What are your points of contact with visitBerlin, where can we assist you?
“With your colleague Simon Hiebenga, we have a permanent contact person at the Berlin Convention Office. We managed to arrange a number of attractive offers for our self-paying guests (e.g. several thousand family members of the athletes) in cooperation with Stadt und Land Reisen. We are also receiving support with marketing and communication services and a colourful package of tourist offers.”
As a central point of contact in Berlin, we assist you neutrally and without charge on your road to a successful event in Berlin. Utilize our extensive knowledge to identify the ideal partner for your event.
In your opinion, where do you see the greatest potential for major events in Berlin?
“I do not want to take a rather rigid view of things here. Berlin offers good conditions for all types of large-scale events. Of course, there is still room for improvement. Last year, with the direct scheduling overlap between the National Special Olympics Summer Games and the finals*, Berlin reached the limits of its capacity in terms of adequate sports facilities for major sporting events.
However, I can certainly say this for the Special Olympics: Berlin can indeed deliver what is promised under the initiative “Sports Metropolis Berlin”.
We are therefore happy to contribute to presenting Berlin as THE sports metropolis and cordially invite everyone to be part of it.”
About Carsten Kranz:
Carsten Kranz is Berliner by Choice and has lived in the city for over ten years. Since the beginning of 2020, he has been working as Chief Operating Officer of the Organising Committee of the Special Olympics Worldgames Berlin 2023. Previously, he was part of the organising committee for 20 years that planned and implemented the German Protestant Church Days. Most recently, he also served as managing director. He understands Berlin from the organiser's perspective, having been involved in the organisation of three major events in the city. The most important events in the city would be an Ecumenical Church Congress (2003, over 190,000 participants), 36th German Protestant Church Congress (2017, over 150,000 participants) and in 2022 at the general rehearsal for the National Special Olympics Summer Games. The main focus of his work is clearly on large-scale non-profit events that aspire to make a difference in the world.
Thank you very much for the interview!
Are you planning an event in Berlin? We will be glad to assist you!
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