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11 July 2019 | in FISU

The sports presentation maestro of Napoli 2019

NAPOLI – Wednesday evening’s women’s basketball final at Palabarbuto Napoli featured plenty of star power on the hardwood as the United States took on defending Universiade champion Australia. But for one person playing a key role in the staging of the event, music, Latin dancing and Capoeira took precedent over points, rebounds and assists.

 

Meet Yorgos Makrydakis, Napoli 2019’s head of sports presentation. Or, as one might be tempted to call him after watching his talented team deliver yet another flawless fan experience, The Maestro.

 

As the man in charge of entertainment and cultural performances at all sporting venues during the 30th FISU Summer Games, his job, in his own words, is to create a party, make sure spectators are having fun and go home happy, and maybe more importantly, want to come back for more.

 
Basketball is a competition that lends itself well to sport presentation. From FIBA to the NBA, its also a sport that has actively sought out ways to be on the leading edge of in-stadium spectator engagement.

Armed with an impressive international resume, Makrydakis didn’t think long when he was offered the position.

 

“The organizing committee contacted me a few months ago and asked if I was available to take on this role. I said yes, because it was a great opportunity,” says the Greek native who now calls Toronto, Canada, home. “I was working with Special Olympics when they called me, and I was also working on the final of the African Super Cup in Qatar. But I was available for the four months that they needed me here.

 

“I went from Doha to Canada, changed suitcases, and here I am.”

 

Makrydakis explains that an old Olympic connection is what got the ball rolling.

 

“I worked with Adam Sotiriadis, the general coordinator of Napoli 2019, at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. He was one of my venue managers and I was one of his lead producers in the sports presentation department.

 

“After the Games, I started a sports presentation company in Greece. But the economy wasn’t doing well in my country, so I moved to Canada. Since 2006, I’ve worked worldwide on big events, both single sport and multisport, from Arab Games in Doha to Solidarity Games in Azerbaijan, Asian martial art championships in Turkmenistan. I worked in London as well.”

 

Here in Naples, Makrydakis oversees a staff of eight, all from the capital of Campania, and can also count on three sports presentation managers sent by the gymnastics, athletics and archery federations.

 
According to the sport presentation maestro of Summer Universiade 2019, his job is to create a party, to ensure spectators are having fun and go home happy - and what is more , that they'll want to come back again

“At first it was very challenging because my staff, with the exception of the ones from the federations who are professionals, they are all doing this for the first time. But they are all amazing, hard-working, ambitious young people. They are doing an unbelievable job.”

 

Some of the entertainment at Napoli 2019 Makrydakis is most proud of includes a soprano and tenor accompanied by an orchestra ensemble on the opening night of football, as well as his personal favourite, an up-and-coming artist, David Rummo, who spent the week creating a painting at poolside at diving.

 

“You have to know sports and adapt your entertainment to every sport. In that regards, basketball is a sports presenter’s dream. There is a lot of time to fill, pre-game, timeouts, between quarters, halftime.

 

“One thing that’s important to me is, in sports presentation, the first priority is the sport. You have to respect the sport and the athletes who are there to compete, and then you build around that. Another priority is you always want to feature local artists, local music, and pay respect to the culture of the country and the city.”

 

Shortly after 7:30 p.m., it’s time for Makrydakis’ final act of the Universiade women’s basketball tournament to begin. On this night, he’s pulled not one, but three rabbits out of his hat.

 

After 25 minutes of pre-game music, public announcements, videos and team presentations, Dr. Annamaria Meterangelis, the first Neapolitan woman to play for Italy’s national team, proceeds with the ceremonial tip off, to the obvious delight of the audience.

 
Dancers from a local school storm the floor and keep the raucous crowd in the stands to watch the women's basketball final on its feet for 30 seconds, not one more, not one less

Then, with 3:42 remaining in the opening quarter, with Australia leading 14-4, over 20 Latin dancers from Ilaria School storm the floor and keep the raucous crowd on its feet for 30 seconds, not one more, not one less, exactly as planned. The talented troop would perform five more times before the game’s final whistle, each time leaving spectators in awe and applauding for more.

 

For the halftime show, Makrydakis has found the perfect mix of sports and entertainment. A group performing Capoeira, a martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics, and music. Once again, the crowd is left delighted, and as energized as ever when the Australian and U.S. teams return to the floor.

 

At the sound of the final buzzer, Team Australia celebrates its second straight Summer Universiade title, thanks to a 80-72 triumph.

 

While one has to wonder if they even noticed the final score, Makrydakis and his sports presentation crew are all smile. Another job well done.

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