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CMWC 2008 Report

The Cycle Messenger World Championships 2008 was the longest weekend of my life - almost 2 years. It was a roller coaster ride of hope and optimism that caused me to witness some of the most inspiring and some of the most disappointing behavior during my life in the messenger community.

But now that it's over I can't help but think about the best and worst of CMWC. The best part of CMWC is always the people. Messengers from all over the planet carry the party from country to country every year inspiring more of the same to join the trek.  People like Switzerland's Luk Keller and Porno Steve whose positive attitudes and infectious smiles spread not only throughout CMWC but around the world too. It's no wonder they both seem to look younger every time I see them.  And people like Martin Banan who showed up three months early to help, just in time. 

But for everything that has a best there's also a worst and CMWC is no exception.

The worst part of CMWC is that because there is so much to do, there is so much to miss. A full slate of official events was scheduled on the Toronto islands complemented by many creative unofficial events on the mainland.  Some of the people I wanted to see the most, I never saw at all. Two of the most anticipated events for me were Nadir's birthday party for Steve and Navid's Goldsprints and backyard BBQ bash.

Nadir and Navid each throw legendary events and parties, not just in Toronto but internationally too. Now their events were back to back.

After spending all day Thursday on the island helping to set up for polo, I got what I think was the worst sunburn of my life. For the rest of the weekend I'm sure I was described as the guy with the raccoon eyes and the bloodied nose.  I missed Steve's birthday entirely and it only made it worse when I listened to tales the next day of how Steve's party ended up at the old school messenger party on Temperance Street for spontaneous sprints in the wee hours of the morning.

Navid's back yard BBQ party was so big, he rented 3 portable toilets. It had its own stage and video screen with 4 Goldsprints bikes and a crew of volunteers. It lasted 2 days or more. Even though I probably missed the best part of it, it was an awe inspiring event. Somehow Navid also found time, with the help of others to publish an "Unofficial Guide to CMWC Toronto" and help organize an art show and film night.

That's part of what makes CMWC so special - the willingness of committed people in the community, like Nadir and Navid to spend their own money and their own labour so that their returning friends and friends they have yet to meet will be assured of a memorable CMWC. They each delivered that and more.

Floating checkpoint

One of the toughest and most stressful jobs during CMWC must be housing. There is no way to know how many people will show up and how many will need space until most of them arrive. Shane Murphy did an outstanding job finding places for everyone on short notice even though he just started a new Courier Co-op weeks before. And he still found time to come over to the island days before to move some of the heaviest stuff around.

One of the reasons I missed some people is that I spent most of my time at the bike polo courts. Although bike polo was first introduced to the championships in Seattle in 2003, CMWC 2008 was the first attempt at holding a proper international bike polo tournament as part of the event. It was a huge challenge, probably too big for a city like Toronto that was just learning about bike polo.

Fortunately for Toronto we're not too far away from Ottawa, one of the world's bike polo Meccas. Brian Whitmore of Ottawa's Mallets of Mayhem went above and beyond what anyone could reasonably expect. At great expense to him Brian made many trips to our city, taught Toronto about bike polo and organized the first world tournament with minimal local help, support or sponsors. In fact, Brian brought his own crew from Ottawa a week early to do most of the volunteer work for the tournament. There is probably no one else in the world that could have pulled it off under the circumstances he confronted. And Brian's participation was virtually the only reason the bike polo players came at all.

I have new found respect for the bike polo community. It's probably already too big and too popular for CMWC to handle properly. The players pulled together and adapted quickly to all the challenges the tournament faced. From a lack of necessary materials and supplies to a lack of time. They still shut down the tournament for more than 5 hours to accommodate the main race and they played at incredibly high skill levels through the sideways rain, the lightning, and the wind and tornado warnings.

CMWC 2008 was my tenth championships (world and continental). All of them have been memorable and wonderful. This was supposed to be my last one but I can't help thinking about perhaps once in a lifetime chances to see CMWC in Japan in 2009 and Guatemala in 2010.