Stop Hosting Worlds

My advice to those hosting or bidding to host the WUDC in the future is to try their hardest not to be Worlds.

The world championship, before this most recent competition, had no hosts come forward to bid. Chennai was accepted without the usual time frame given to the planning of this tournament. Instead of focusing on the problems that happened in India - very well documented many other places on the web - I'd like to spend some time articulating the primary cause of these problems.

The major reason any of these things came to pass is because the global debating community is more interested in having a Worlds than a world championship. 

It doesn't seem that way with all the attention put into rules, CA choices, adjudicator subsidies (or the promise of them), motion fairness discussions and more and more discussion about gender inequity at worlds. But the biggest barrier toward having a solid worlds tournament is the belief that Worlds should have certain features, and without those features Worlds would not be Worlds. 

These features include, but are not limited to the following: Five-star accommodation, nightly socials, free or heavily discounted alcohol, planned and discounted excursions, and large numbers of subsidized judges. 

It is the demand, either implicit or explicit, from the debating community that these be a part of any Worlds bid worth considering. But it is also these demands that probably deter many organizations from bidding to host Worlds - they realize the hard work and implausibility of providing all of the above.

Organizations that offered a bid to host a world championship - something stripped down, basic, and directly focused on the tournament portion of Worlds - would not be considered a serious bid, no matter how good the justification and planning for the competition. It is unfortunate, but I believe that the worldwide debate community has come to not feel grateful for such lavish things at Worlds, but have come to expect these things as the basic norm for any Worlds.

Consider all the controversy in Chennai - when you strip away all the elements of frustration and failure, you are left with one of the most solid, excellent competitive tournaments of all time. The motions, judge allocation, and the running of the competition were perfect. All of the issues at Chennai came from one source, and it isn't the organization that was hosting. It is our demand that the world championships be Worlds that lead to the poor management of all the other aspects of the tournament. 

If we keep insisting on worlds containing all of these elements, something is going to have to give. It is unlikely that hosts can pull off what it is that they promise given what all of these demands cost. Debaters are lucky that this time it wasn't the tournament that broke. Next time it might not be the case. 

What I think we should focus on is recruiting and pushing for hosts that offer certain amenities - safe and comfortable lodging, decent food, venues for meetings, competition, and general "hanging out" - and a nice break party. After that, social functions can easily be handled by the competitors as they meet old and new friends, catch up, and explore a little bit of the host city. A focus on having a world championship will give rise to a more affordable entry fee, an easier time finding a variety of hosts, and a community built around the production and critique of good argumentation and rhetoric in an intercultural, global atmosphere. Focus less on the parties and the celebratory atmosphere and more on the thing that we are meant to be celebrating. A streamlined world championship in the place of a bloated, over-the-top Worlds would provide more money for the administration of the tournament, subsidizing the aspects of the world championship that need the most assistance, such as expensive travel.

The most valuable lesson from the Chennai problems was this - the community has produced and contains remarkable leaders who are professional and capable of focusing on the task at hand, accomplishing it with amazing success. It's remarkable that the tournament was so great given what it faced from its own organizers. Running the tournament is not the issue, and we should feel thankful. Happily signing on to a host who promises all that we demand from a Worlds is our undoing. We should be immediately suspicious going forward of any bid that suggests it can offer everything that we believe Worlds should have. There must be compromises in order for it to function at that registration price, with those donors, for that expected quality. 

The thing that most people praised about Chennai was that tournament aspect and what it brings with it: Excellent opportunities to catch up with old friends, make new ones, and experience some thoughtful and eloquent debating. What is Worlds but this? Hosting a World Championship and allowing some of the sediment of Worlds to float away would focus the world championship on what is most valuable and important about the international debate community. We should move in this direction by asking for a world championship host, not a Worlds host.
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