Odin, we have got a problem!
We are ready for the biggest Strong Viking season ever! But then... It's all hands on deck on the Viking ship. In this blog you'll read how we've experienced this roller coaster of the past few weeks.
After a successful start of the season with the Trail Run in Wijchen and the Mud Edition in Furstenau, Germany, the Strong Viking team is getting ready for the first Strong Viking Trail Run in Belgium. With over 1800 registrations, this Edition is the biggest trail run in the Netherlands and Belgium. Event manager Djon and his construction team started building on Monday and are now almost ready to go: "The trail is ready and we are now working on the final touches. The chopped wood only needs to be brought to the firepits and tomorrow our sector commanders will check the course again. In short: We are looking forward to it!
Thursday 12 March
The rest of the Strong Viking staff is also about to travel to Balen, Belgium. The entire crew is always present the day before the event to prepare his/her work further on location. The latest lists of participants are getting downloaded, the memory cards for the photographers are stored safely in the camera bag and the route towards Belgium has been entered in the navigation system. We are ready to go!
"Before you go, there's a press conference at 15:00 about the corona Virus. There are new regulations" sounds at the corridor of the Strong Viking HQ. Ugh... As organizer of large-scale events we were of course aware of the developments of the Covid-19 virus, but until today the measures only concerned the Province of Brabant. Strong Viking may be located in the ‘Brabantse’ Cuijk, but our Dutch events take place in ‘Gelderland’ and ‘North Holland’. Besides the Belgian government hadn't come up with any worrying measures so far, so there was no reason to doubt about canceling our events. Until now.
Watching the Livestream of the Dutch news, we anxiously wait for the arrival of the President and his team. By phone we are in direct contact with Djon, the event manager in Belgium, where at the same time extra regulations are announced. The mood in the room is pretty nervous. This was going to be the biggest Strong Viking season so far, with no less than 100,000 Vikings climbing our Walhalla Steps divided over 25 editions. Possible regulations could bring that goal in danger..
"Oh no.., Bad news" says Djon. With a slightly different wording than it's written here. "The Belgium government forbids all events with more than 100 visitors". What now? There is no time to talk any further, because the Mayor of Balen is on the phone. Meanwhile the press conference in the Netherlands has started. When the Minister starts with the list of national measures it’s dead quiet. "Events, meetings with more than 100 people, are cancelled throughout the Netherlands," says the Minister for Medical Care & Sports. The words come in loud and clear. Before the Minister is finished with the rest of the measures, colleagues rush to answer their red-hot phones. "Meeting In 5 minutes!" sounds from the office of the Strong Viking management.
From that moment on everything goes in ‘fast motion’ mode. The regulations mean that we have to cancel both the upcoming Trail Run in Belgium and the Mud and Family Edition in Nijmegen. Must cancel, that's how it feels for sure right now. The tracks were drawed in, the new obstacles ready to be built and ticket sales are better than ever. In short, we've got a problem.
Where do you start communicating? The participants must be informed as quickly and as possible about the consequences. It is up to the marketing department to come up with a good and clear statement to our participants.
This message will have to be translated into English and German. After all, Strong Viking does not only have Dutch speaking participants. The texts and participant lists are prepared in a mailing campaign. At 17:00 the mailings will be sent.
Everyone stays at the office, there is still a lot of work to do. We don't build the events of Strong Viking alone. For this we have a lot of loyal partners with whom we work closely together, such as tent builders, photographers and catering service. This also means no income for them and a lot of uncertainty in the upcoming months. At 20:30 the whole team sits tacitly together and trying to get a pizza inside. Let's call it a day. And what a day it was...
In the weeks that followed, the regulations followed each other verry quickly. Besides the Trail Run and the Mud/Family Edition in Nijmegen, the Mud/Family Edition in Ghent, the Hills/Family Edition in Amsterdam and finally the Water Editions of Frankfurt, Nijmegen and Karlsruhe of the Strong Viking calendar also disappear. An unmistakable disappointment, because behind every one of the 55,000 e-mail addresses we have to report the bad news, there is a future Viking who defies our Walhalla Steps with a big smile. But the disbelief has also made room for understanding at the Strong Viking HQ. Understanding for the regulations made by the government. There are more important issues going on around the world right now. In 2019 we have welcomed Vikings from no less than 63(!) different countries. Every risk that is taken is a risk too much. As much as we would like our participating Vikings to reach Walhalla together, health is paramount. Always.
It's all hands on deck on the Viking ship. We try to compensate everyone as well as we can and help them with questions as quickly as possible. Cynthia is working her ass of with the #VikingsAtHomeChallenges and the first ideas for a Strong Viking Home Edition are on paper. The heartwarming reactions, understanding, and support of our faithful Vikings keep us floating. No matter how tough and terrifying Vikings sometimes seem, our hearts beat faster because of that.
Let's conquer this obstacle together.
Stay safe Vikings.