The Finnish round of World Rally Championship is heading towards its 70th anniversary. Thousands of volunteers are working for the rally around Finland and in the City of Jyväskylä in addition to more than a hundred different motorsport and other clubs. Around 4500 people will be needed to make the Neste Rally Finland happen.
Even though the coronavirus pandemic has been making the whole world going through challenging times, preparations for Neste Rally Finland are still taking place as normally as possible, as there is a lot to do every year.
– Many times work for the rally is understood in a somewhat narrow sense, that the rally is only done “in the middle of the forest” with special stage arrangements. This is by no means true, as the event requires quite multidisciplinary expertise. During the rally week, different jobs bind large numbers of people e.g. in the Media Center where the communications team handles news almost around the clock. In addition, various tasks on more technical side offer opportunities to utilise and develop one's own skills – such as timekeeping, technical inspection, service park and various office, IT and construction work require hundreds of people's input. It's a close team work of both year-round workers and volunteers, describes Clerk of the Course Kai Tarkiainen.
The work for the rally always starts immediately after the previous year's event, when the official organiser of Neste Rally Finland, AKK Sports Ltd, collects feedback e.g. from the special stage organisers, partners, media and spectators. Based on the received feedback, after a deep analysis, goal is to develop activities, training and event itself to constantly better meet demand.
At the heart of all the activities, however, are the clubs and village associations, that do the practical work on the stages – and there is plenty to do. After publishing the rally route – even a bit before – a large amount of work will be done to get the spectators' areas, services, parking spaces and everything necessary for the rally to be ready. Countless landowners, road maintenance municipalities and village associations need to be contacted to get the permit issues in order and to gather enough volunteers.
AKK's role as a coordinator
AKK acts as a coordinating and advisory party for the special stage organisers. Each special stage has its own entity, which is also one of the strengths of Neste Rally Finland. AKK and the rally organisation provides the special stage organisers with the framework in which they can create their stage.
Year after year, more and more effort is being put in the training, and stage organisers are better prepared for their actions during as well as after the rally. Corporate responsibility and taking good care of the environment are also integral parts of Neste Rally Finland.
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The Clerk of the Course Tarkiainen summarises volunteers of Neste Rally Finland on three different equally important levels: year-round workers, special stage officers, and volunteers of special stages, service park and other activities.
Tarkiainen emphasises the need for all of the people involved and continuous development. Without year-round workers, the background work of the rally could not be done, without skilled and motivated officers, special stages could not be possible. A large number of volunteers during the competition are vital to conducting the event.
– You can't do an event of this size without volunteers. We need the input of every volunteer. Neste Rally Finland brings together people from Hanko to Utsjoki as well as abroad. People want to come and be part of making the rally and that's very great to hear. It's not only people from motorsport clubs but also from other clubs or sports such as football, icehockey, boxing or figure skating. I want to thank everyone involved already at this stage of preparations, says Tarkiainen.
Volunteering is a co-operating that gives something for both parties. Different clubs are gathering a great amount of financial support to enable their annual activities. What is more, for single volunteers participation in the rally can be a great chance to get new opportunities in work or studies – the network around the event is remarkable.
Tarkiainen reminds that Neste Rally Finland is an excellent learning experience for all participants, as the training and experience given to volunteers can easily be taken to the activities of other events, competitions and clubs.
Pictures: Toni Ollikainen/AKK & Sami Lamminaho/AKK