According to Belgian newspaper ‘Gazet van Antwerpen’, the organization of the Hockey Euro’s in Boom was asked to be a candidate for the 2018 World Cup as well. Pretty huge compliment, if you ask me! It’s not the first time that Belgians prove themselves by doing something great. The mentality of doing great things instead of talking in huge words. To stay on the premises of ‘De Schorre’ in Boom, we also have some of the best music festivals in the world (Werchter, Pukkelpop, Tomorrowland, …), the best athletics meeting in the world (the Memorial Van Damme) and so on. There are rarely any complaints of the organizations behind all of these.
The European Championship was what it was supposed to be. Personally, I think the media coverage could’ve been better (why did Belgian national television only show the Belgian games and not all of the tournament? Not even all the semi-finals?), but apart from that I don’t think players, sponsors and/or supporters will have had any complaints. I was at the tournament once during the build-up in the week before and twice during the tournament itself.
The premises of the tournament were carefully set. There were roughly three sectors, each with their own purposes. You entered the domain via the ‘hockey park’. It had a centrally located bar so that everybody would be able to reach it easily, some shops (of sponsors mostly) where every now and then some hockey players would stop by to meet their fans, a podium for the after party’s and one of the two kids city’s. All of this bathing in a relaxed atmosphere, especially later in the evening.
‘Hockey plaza’ then, the perfect location for the “third half of the game”: the moment where you discuss crucial phases of the game or its outcome while enjoying a drink or watching the next game on one of the TV screens. Amongst these shops and food and drinks stands, hockey players and coaches would be roaming around as well. All of them being very friendly and easy to chat to after their games. Pictures, autographs and some small talk were no issue at all. Of course, it was also a dream location for the sponsors as for example the Dutch players would be found near the stand of Rabobank whereas the Germans would be somewhere near the Adidas stand. I suppose this also makes it easier for the fans to find and meet their idols.
The sponsors where very present at both the park and the plaza, but never in a pushy way. You didn’t feel like the logos and brands were being thrown at you, even if they were everywhere. It seemed to encourage interaction. You could walk around, chill, hang out in the nice atmosphere that turned out to be characterizing for these European Championships.
The third sector then, the actual stadium where all the games took place, turned out to be just as great. For the first time in hockey history, the field of a major tournament was surrounded by led boarding. It gave sponsors a lot more visibility of course, which will surely have been more appreciated.
During the opening and closing weekend of the tournament, the venue was pretty much sold out. It resulted in a great atmosphere in the stands of course. Obviously, Belgium and the Netherlands attracted the biggest crowds and of course the games taking place in the weekends were more popular than the ones during the week.
I returned from the tournament with a really good feeling after having spent a very pleasant day there. Judging by the reactions of other visitors and fans, I wasn’t the only one. I definitely wouldn’t mind if the 2018 World Cup would be coming to Belgium as well and I already hope that I will be able to be there again then!
This article was written for and published (in Dutch) on Belgian sports news website Sportnext.be.