Nimes: Two decades of learning and lessons from Europe’s premier indoor event
Over the course of two decades, the international indoor tournament in Nimes has established itself as one of archery’s flagship events.
More than 1150 people competed at its 22nd edition, held in January 2020, travelling from 41 countries an all five sporting continents.
The historic city in the south of France has hosted a world-class archery event each year since 1997. In 2003 and 2014, the tournament in Nimes was the World Archery Indoor Championships – and every other season, an open entry competition.
A founding event of the Indoor Archery World Cup – which later became the Indoor Archery World Series – it is no accident that Nimes has developed to its current level.
The city itself, which houses around 150,000 people, is known for its well-presented Roman monuments, including an amphitheatre built in around 70 AD.
But for archers, it‘s known as the ultimate indoor test of archery in Europe.
And it’s due to Olivier Grillat, who drove the project in the 1990s and who remains at the forefront of the tournament now, that the Nimes Tournament has become such a high-point on the competition calendar – and an important economic event for the city that hosts it.
The archery club in Nimes’ initial goal was to make archery one of the major – and popular – sports in the city, behind the established football, handball and rugby.
“The creation of a world-class tournament was and is part of a long-term global plan for the development and implementation of archery in the city of Nimes that we have been following since 1986,” explains the club’s sports director Olivier Grillat.
“Our club brings together enthusiasts and it is important for us to promote our sport at the national and international level by contributing to the efforts of our national federation and World Archery.”
The club set three clear objectives for the tournament.
The first was to have world-class results and media coverage of the performances. Today, thanks to strong relationships with sports journalists, local newspapers publish around 35 articles a year on the club, on top of coverage of international events.
The second objective was to grow participation. Nimes invested in equipment, coaching and infrastructure, as well as started a programme of archery lessons at leisure centres and schools, to build interest in Nimes. Today, archery is practised in 13 primary schools and the city’s main children’s leisure centre.
Finally, the tournament needed to bring significant economic benefit to the city. The event is now the second biggest on the calendar for local hotels and restaurants.
The strength of the Nimes tournament is its experienced and professional staff – both volunteers and professionals.
“I’m satisfied when each and every member of the organisation is proud of the result of their investment and have had an exceptional human experience,” says Olivier.
The foundations on which the event is based are the experienced team, a positive image and loyal partners. But without the customers – the archers – shooting, none of the growth would have been possible.
The tournament strives to meet the needs of its stakeholders: athletes, spectators, public and private partners, clubs, the national and international federation, and the goals of the organising committee.
Competitive archers come to Nimes for a spectacular tournament, delivered to the highest level and with its famous audience and atmosphere.
Intermediate archers see Nimes as a unique opportunity to celebrate their passion for the sport, compete alongside their idols, with an opportunity to win prizes, meet industry leaders and spectate at the finals show.
The general public, non-archery audience, visits for the show that are finals.
Public partners see Nimes as a world-class sporting event that brings significant economic benefits and good media coverage to the city, region and country.
Private partners from within archery have the best opportunity in Europe to directly contact consumers, while local non-endemic partners reach an international audience for a very reasonable price.
The photos and videos allow World Archery and the national federation to proactively promote the sport.
And, for the organising committee, the tournament is a chance for passionate volunteers to meet their champions, work for the betterment of the sport and live a unique experience. Volunteers from inside and outside archery are proud of their contribution to this international event.
Nimes, as an archery club, uses the competition to find and develop partnerships. It’s a tool that Nimes uses to promote and grow.
All these aspects must balance to deliver a successful tournament.
The tournament was started by a small group of enthusiasts, all very different people, who shared the same passion for the project.
Year after year, the volunteers have recruited more volunteers, diverse in age and origin, who share those same values but bring new skills.
Nimes now boasts volunteers aged 12 to 80 years old.
The club averages around 200 members and there is a strong sense of duty to properly support those members. Making sure they’re happy also helps ensure they are committed to organising the event.
There is a structured organisational chart for the Nimes Archery Tournament.
Each department has a head and managers. There’s even a human resources director to take care of the volunteers.
“The managers take care of each volunteer – and most importantly recognise the work of each of the volunteers,” says Olivier.
From cleaning to setting up or dismantling equipment, manning reception, security, protocol, results management, running the concession, logistics, activities, volunteer management and more – every task is considered essential. There are no VIP volunteers or noble tasks, everything is necessary to deliver the event.
The Nimes organisation works a team, as a family and each position in the structure has value.
Volunteers are not a year-by-year proposition. The goal is to have 100s return each and every January and, for that to happen, it’s essential that are proud of their experience.
“I try to take care of everyone, I recognise their importance and I listen to their suggestions for improvement because it is also everyone's project,” says Olivier.
Nimes and Vegas are the reason the international indoor circuit – now the Indoor Archery World Series – exist.
Nimes has a healthy relationship with the organisers of the Vegas Shoot that has enabled both tournaments to improve through exchange and sharing of best practice. The events are partners with a clear goal.
Olivier travels to Vegas every February. Bruce Cull, president of the Vegas Shoot, attends Nimes every January.
“We share the same vision for archery promotion, which is the foundation of that trust and cooperation,” says Olivier.
Vegas and Nimes have supported other emerging tournaments, such as the indoor events in Marrakesh, Bangkok and Macau, to give them a jump start.
Grillat is enthusiastic about building strong events around the world – so that there is a balanced geographical spread of tournaments on the indoor world series.
And so that these events can grow together.
Planning and progress
Preparing for the next edition of the Nimes Tournament starts while the previous one is in progress.
The club lost 23,000 Euros on the first event in 1997. But the team that organised it was keen to repeat their efforts the following year – and could see the potential in continuing.
To become financially viable, the competition needed to secure private and public partners.
“But the most important thing was to take care of our volunteers, our first wealth and resource was the passion and will of our team. A team of motivated people can take up any challenge. We needed to enlarge the team and find other skills,” says Olivier.
The best place to engage potential partners with the passion of that team – and show them the value of the event – is at the tournament itself.
One month after the event, a process of analysis and evaluation takes place. The budget for the next year starts to take shape.
The first thing Olivier does is listen to sponsors and partners to gauge their satisfaction with their involvement.
“I already know and it's easy to understand what I expect from our partners, but above all I try to show them that our actions can fit with their goals – and help them reach their consumers, staff or support their commercial model,” he says.
“I know and they know what they do and can do for archery. I need to explain to them what archery does and can do for them.”
Olivier sees the sponsors and partners in Nimes as a family, rather than just a commercial transaction.
In the past, there have been relationships that failed because they were based on agreements that were not beneficial for both parties or because the partners did not share the same event philosophies.
Grillat says he would not take a sponsor that would suddenly become so important to the event that the club lost control.
It is because of this transparency, perhaps, that the tournament receives significant support from local, regional and national authorities.
“I constantly try to keep up to date with their policies, their actions. It makes it easier to plead archery’s case and make reasonable requests that are more likely to be agreed,” says Olivier.
Nimes’ indoor tournament has reinforced the club’s position in the city and the region, garnering increased recognition year on year.
This has led to greater financial support – and support from governmental officials.
Club members, therefore, benefit from better permanent installations for training, in-house coaches and staff, made possible through support from the state. The club has the means necessary to develop archery at all levels.
This wouldn’t be possible without the tournament.
“It‘s what drives us to organise the most successful event each year, and use all the resources available to us,” says Olivier.
“The benefits for the club are not direct but very real.”
He is proud of the commitment of the people involved in the project.
"The tournament is a great source of happiness, a human adventure full of adrenaline that I share with all volunteers and professionals - technicians, French Archery Federation and World Archery staff - but also with our partners,” says Olivier.
“We form a team, almost a family, and every year we take up that crazy challenge."
Twice in its 22-year history, Nimes has not hosted its traditional event – but instead used many of the same building blocks to put on a World Archery Indoor Championships.
The first time was in 2003 when the finals were held in the famous amphitheatre, and the second was 2014.
“Hosting the world championships is an honour and a great responsibility, but we felt we were up to the challenge,” says Olivier.
“We wanted to reinforce the international stature of Nimes as an organiser and strengthen the promotion of the tournament.”
Hosting a world championships required Nimes to invest in equipment and staff. This resulted in improved facilities for the club.
It also opened up another level of organisations interesting in partnering and further strengthened relationships with stakeholders.
Despite the experience, organising a championships – says Olivier – needs a timeframe of about three years. Especially if the legacy of those championships is to be properly integrated into the club‘s ongoing strategic plan.
The championships in 2003 were a spectator success. The venue, in the Roman arena, and point in archery’s development, perfectly aligned.
People travelled from across France, many from the north and around Paris, to watch. There was a large amount of funding available and Nimes could afford to invest considerably in the show.
The championships in 2014 were organised in a different economic context.
Funds were received but they had to be more carefully distributed. Spectators were not so willing to travel long distances.
“In spite of my experience, I made mistakes in terms of ticketing and overestimated the capacity of our national federation to mobilise fans,” admits Olivier.
The World Archery Indoor Championships was removed from the international calendar after the 2018 edition.
That decision was partly made due to the success of tournaments like Nimes, and the rest of the Indoor Archery World Series, in offering world-class events to a wider audience.
French sports administrator Olivier Grillat started archery in 1975 and has been director of the Nimes Archery Tournament since 1993.
He has also organised two World Archery Indoor Championships, served on World Archery’s technical committee and then target committee, and sat on the French archery federation’s board since 1994.
At 56 years of age, Olivier still coaches at his life-long club in Nimes.
“The most important to me is my family, and the two passions I have, archery and my beautiful city of Nimes,“ says Olivier.
“Fortunately, the tournament gives me the opportunity to unit all of them, my passions, and my family who takes a very active part in this adventure.”