2016-04-19 13:20:00 CEST
While the World Tour athletes are fighting on the court thinking points and prize money, the people around them have to face different challenges.
Sitting motionless on a perch while raindrops keep falling on your head, ignoring the thunderstorm and watching out for the right decision – that’s something Milan Vachutka knows very well.
Three years ago the Czech referee had to officiate every game in the rain. At the World Championships in 2013 in Stare Jablonki he wore just shorts and a small baseball cap. When he left the court completely sodden after the one-hour match between Nic Lucena/John Hyden (USA) and Sebastian Fuchs/Thomas Kaczmarek (GER) he just said: “Being a referee is my life.” The role model of the 33-year-old is his mother, who was the first woman in the Czech Republic to officiate a volleyball match.
People like Milan or fellow referee Maria Amélia Villas-Boas help to make World Tour events happen. “I’ve loved volleyball since I was a teenager,” says the 55-year-old Brazilian Maria.
She is still playing in masters tournaments but wanted to be closer to the sport. So she decided to be a referee 1987. Now she is a FIVB Referee Delegate and assumes all duties related to refeereeing. She is now working in Fuzhou and was in Xiamen last week.
“The biggest challenge in Xiamen was the rain,” she explains. “Sometimes we had strong rain. This is very difficult for referees because when they officiate they can't move and of course they could feel cold. But they are very professional and are always dedicated to the task.”
The same is true for the scoreboard operators, line judgers, ball checkers, sand levelers and athletes’ attendants.
Close to 200 people work at every single World Tour event, including TV coordinators, commentators and technical supervisors – and most of them are volunteers.
“I really appreciate the dedication of all the volunteers and of course all of the officials,” says Blair Harrison.
Australian Blair is the Technical Supervisor in Xiamen and Fuzhou, and holds the highest authority on site.
“In Xiamen we have done a great job in a pretty difficult conditions in making this event happen,” says Blair. “It’s been a long time since it's rained this much. It's unusual in China at this time of the year. It's probably the most trying event I have ever done.”
Blair has been doing his job for over 20 years now. He is the one who decides to stop games when it is getting too dangerous – as he did in St Petersburg last year.
“There was lightning but the sky was blue,” explains Maria. “Play was postponed and we had to stay inside for safety reasons. It was quite surreal.”
Now she is looking forward to Fuzhou. Rain is announced for Thursday until Sunday.
“The trick in managing the challenge is to anticipate as many issues as possible and to be prepared,” adds Blair.