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29 July 2018 | in Rugby, World University Championships

WUC Sevens Rugby event chairman: It's a dream come true

A look back at some of the most memorable storylines that didn't get told during the World University Rugby Sevens Championship 

 

SWAKOPMUND, NAMIBIA — Hosting an international competition of any nature is no easy task, yet that challenge becomes even more taxing when it’s never been done before.

 

The 8th edition of the World University Championships Rugby Sevens taking place in Namibia is the first time this event has taken place on the African continent, and the first time the country of Namibia has ever staged an international competition of this nature.

 

The sleepy, seaside town of Swakopmund, a picturesque venue which clearly aligns with the tournament’s catch-phrase “where the desert meets the ocean” lies some 300km away from the country’s capital Windhoek, yet the championships’ Local Organising Committee (LOC) chairman Werner Jeffrey insisted on taking the competition to the coast.

 
Knows as the place "where the desert meets the ocean," Swakopmund was the first Namibian city to host a World University Championship event, adding to the international flair and flavour of the competition

“We had the option of taking it to the capital Windhoek, but I suggested we bring it to Swakopmund,” he said. “If you think about sport tourism, the players here would have seen Swakopmund and how beautiful it is and how friendly the people are, and come back with their parents.”

 

The build-up to the event proved a challenging task for the debutant hosts, as described by Jeffrey.  “At the moment our economy is not in a good position,” he says. “When we bid for it in 2015, we were fine, but then we went through a bit of a dip which brought a lot of hardship for us, so we basically organised this tournament with no funds and didn’t get many sponsorships.

 

“But to have the world here was worth all those sufferings. It’s been worth all the hard work we put in.”

 
Despite this being the first ever FISU World University Championship event on the African continent, the hosts have an appetite for more, with the LOC Chairman saying, "We want to make this a destination for FISU, as well as other senior sporting bodies a

Having at times been overwhelmed by the demands of hosting such a tournament, Jeffrey admits it has not all been smooth-sailing for the LOC, but says the knowledge and experience has been vital for the people of Namibia.

 

“I know that things did not go perfectly, but it’s a learning process for our people, and we want to better it in future,” he says. “People here have come to realise what an international tournament is about. People in Namibia generally have a very relaxed attitude – “if you can’t do it today, do it tomorrow” – so this is a wake-up call for our people. We want to make this a destination for FISU, as well as other senior sporting bodies as well. This is just the start. There have never been any world championship events in Namibia, and we just wanted to show the people that we could do it.

 

“I’m mighty proud of the people I work with, and the organising committee ... we put in a lot of hours, and as long as these players go away from Namibia having enjoyed their time here, I’m happy. You cannot measure it in money, it’s about the experiences made here. Our government will realise we can do it, and we just have to build on this for the future.”

 

Having put up their hands as host nation, Jeffrey is hoping Namibia’s staging of the championships will inspire other African countries to do the same.

 
The FISU five stars are the first time the branding of an international sports organisation has had a prominent position on the Swakopmund Central Stadium, the host venue of this international event

“It must inspire other African countries, so that they can do even better,” he says. “What we have put up is not ideal, but we have done the basics, and with that, people can enjoy themselves. The food is lovely, the tourism aspect is lovely, our people are incredibly friendly and there’s peace and unity among all. I can look back and proudly say, ‘This is what I did’. This is the legacy I want to leave – bringing the world to Namibia. We are mighty proud that we could bring it the world and to FISU, and we can only go forward. There’s already talk about possibly bringing the cross country championships here, so who knows!”

 
Swakopmund became the first Namibian town to host an international university championships event

Doing his best at what was at his disposal, the LOC chairman says he is immensely proud of what he managed to put together, saying it was a “dream come true” for him.

 

“This for me is a dream come true,” Jeffrey says. “I’ve organised a number of regional games, but this is the cherry on the cake for me, organising a world championships event. I’m really proud, and this is what I’ve worked for. After this I’m done – I’ve done what I’ve always dreamed of doing, bringing a world championships event to Namibia.

 

“For us it is of immense importance, showcasing world rugby to Namibia. Good things can only come from this."