CANADIAN Clint Flood could not have envisaged experiencing as many ups and down as a steeplechaser when he accepted the role of CEO for VAN2017.
With 200 days to go before the start of the Pacific Mini Games on December 4, Van2017 and its CEO have risen from the mat after a series of low blows from a handful of detractors who had managed to get his visa and working credentials questioned, ethics and even his commitment to the project queried.
The visa situation reached such a ridiculous stage that with just over 240 days to go before the start of the Games, the Board asked him to work outside of the office for a week in order to comply with orders from Immigration not to work in the office, but to ensure that the planning of the Games still was taking place.
“Every day counts,” said Flood, “and even a few days out of the office affects our progress.”
Orders were issued from a government office: to return assets, to seize vehicles and he was threatened with arrest, and advised that possible physical violence from some of the detractors might occur.
While a few shots landed, the affable, but highly professional sports event organiser, parried everything that has come his way and his small but nasty so called enemies could not land a knock-out blow.
“Apparently someone was circulating stories around Vila that I was operating a secret bank account and it was suggested I was somehow channeling government funds through this mythical account,’’ he said. “We had the Van2017 bank account frozen back in November that led to another crisis, only to have the Prime Minister himself write directly to the authorities and those that undertook this action, that there was absolutely no validity of any claims of deception, and that any and all actions of the sort were to be stopped immediately,” he said.
“The truth is that I am completely answerable to a Board in everything I do. Like any company we have policies to ensure accountability.
“I can’t sign cheques to myself and we have a very professional and highly ethical board in place to ensure transparency.
“We undertake monthly aquitals to Department of Finance for every vatu we spend.”
Mr Flood said in the end any questions with his visa were quickly sorted out by the Van 2017 board, once it reached the proper authorities in Government. No wrong-doing was placed at his feet for anything to do with his visa or any issues with finances.
The Pacific Games Authority, which is the overall governing body of the Games here in Vanuatu, has stated its full confidence in Mr Flood and his hard working team at Van2017.
He said he is confident that Van2017 and its board and the management team have the full backing of the senior members of the Government.
Sporting clichés aside, Clint has found much of this has left him dismayed at the motives. At one stage he found himself fielding calls for sponsors who had pledged large resources to the Games, saying they were going to exercise their escape clauses.
Rumours had circulated and Facebook postings claimed that an Interim CEO had been appointed to run the Games.
This again turned out to be untrue and the Board of Van2017 and PGA had to step in again to deal with the detractors who were stirring up these issues.
In the wake of this turbulence, two senior staff from Van2017 were terminated over their involvement in some of the planned disruptions. Mr Flood was particularly disturbed that it came to this, especially that one of the people was a senior member of the team, who was recruited specifically for key skills the project required.
Things finally came to a head this past week, when the PGA and senior members of the Government flatly rejected changes in legislation that is in place to ensure governance and transparency of the Games.
“As of this week, I think we can finally say it is all behind us as this small group have heard the will of the people who have been put in charge of overseeing the Games – ie the Pacific Games Authority – and have been told in no uncertain terms to work together, not against the directions of the Government and the PGA,” he said.
“Now, hopefully, we can concentrate on doing what we as a team are meant to do and that is deliver a great games for the people of Vanuatu and the Pacific.
“But we only have just slightly over 200 days to do that and I admit there are hurdles to still overcome. We have assembled a great team of 35 so far and that will grow, and we are looking at recruiting 2500 volunteers to help this work and make Vanuatu proud.
“I did not apply for this job, I was invited by VASANOC and the Pacific Games Council to do it. But it’s a great honour to be asked and I am humbled to be here and chosen to try and help Vanuatu deliver a great Games.
“I accepted the job based on the fact of the strong commitment from the Government of Vanuatu to the project, and a great board and strong leadership in the form of the PGA.”
And those that did so chose well.
Originally from Victoria in British Colombia, Canada, Mr Flood is a senior project manager with 30-plus years’ experience managing projects around the world.
His skill set includes contract administration, volunteer management, cost and budget control/development, HR management, stakeholder facilitation and engagement, sales and marketing.
He cut his teeth in sports management at the Calgary Winter Olympics in February, 1988 and has since been involved in seven Commonwealth Games, Olympics . World Championships and most recently as Executive Operations Manager at the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby, where he worked for almost three years.
These games were highly successful and reports seen by The Independent were high in their praise of Clint’s senior role in their operation.
“At that time, PNG was in the midst of a mining and minerals boom, things were vibrant and a lot of money was spent on those games,” he said modestly.
As CEO of the 2017 Pacific Mini Games in Port Vila from December 4-15, Mr Flood will have to deal with more than 1800 athletes from 24 countries in 13 sports, plus more than 500 officials and an army of volunteers.
His brief is to lead a team to promote, plan and deliver these Games, which will be the largest sporting and celebration event in Vanuatu since the last Games in 1993 or, in reality, the biggest ever for this country.
He said the government had committed VT 782 million to the Games. The Government commitment is huge and without this the Games could not occur.
He stressed that it is critical that the cash flow occurs against the timelines over the next 200 days leading up to December 4.
“For example, I need an injection of funds now to get certain things under way and award some very large contracts. There are some who think we will only need the finances at games’ times, but it does not work like that at all,’’ he said.
He cited a myriad of examples like needing 50 trucks of coral to create walkways around the sporting venues and fixing classrooms and washroom facilities in four schools which will house the visiting athletes.
“These are things people simply don’t even think about, but they must be done and these are the reasons why we need many volunteers,’’ he said.
Mr Flood said he knew many people doubted the Games site will be completed on time.
“We have full faith in the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the contractor they have chosen, CCECC, to deliver the venues. We meet on a weekly basis and review progress and obtain updates. The contractor is extremely committed,’’ he said.
Mr Flood has an unshakeable belief that the Games will be much more than just a sporting event.
“It will be a mixture of sport and culture, we have Fest Napuan on board, in fact they approached us about it before we went to them, as we had planned to do,’’ he said.
“There will be lots of music and entertainment and unique groups like the water music ladies will have a role as will Won Smol Bag and many others as well.
“Of course we want to showcase the sporting talent that abounds in the Pacific, but we also want Vanuatu to be proud and we want the Pacific, and indeed the world, to understand this country that much better after the Games.’’
His other goal is that after the Games are done that he and his wife can take some time and travel and see some of this great country, rather than the inside of the office where he will be glued to his desk for the next 200 days.