Should the Worlds’ OrgCom host an official Yakka-Party: A Debate / Pro

Datum: Jan 15th, 2013
Category: International

WUDC Berlin 2013 WorldsFor a few years now, it has been a loved and honoured tradition of the South African Delegation to host a Yakka-Party. Until Worlds 2013, the party was organized separately from the official part of the tournament. Money was collected and the ingredients for the Yakka (lemons, wodka and sugar) were bought in a private context. For the first time in 2013, the organizers of Berlin Worlds decided to integrate the Yakka-Party into the official schedule. This led to discussions within the OrgCom prior to the event and to discussions between the participants during and afterwards it. Marcus Ewald, member of the OrgCom, and Philipp Schmidtke, volunteer, collected the arguments and reconstructed the most important points in favour and against integrating the Yakka-Party into the official programme.

Pro by Marcus Ewald

First of all, one observation: Debaters like to party. And sometimes, they like to party hard. If you are organizing a debating tournament, next to smooth scheduling and good adjudication you spend many thoughts on how to make the social experience extraordinary. That is especially true for world championships: Most debaters who are coming to Worlds do not plan to win it. They plan to debate as good as possible and after that, they want to drink with old friends and party to make new friends. The experiences made at the socials are the ones that will be remembered. In that respect, I myself am grateful to have been part of what some call – with dread and admiration – the Yakkageddon.

That name already illustrates something: Where there’s party, there’s risk. People can dance too wild and hurt themselves, they can drink too much and do stupid things, or they could accidently poison their bodies with alcohol. People normally know about these risks and accept them. These risks increase dramatically if you increase the scale of a party from 100 people at your average IV to 1.400 people at worlds New Year’s Eve party.

I generally believe that grown up people should be able to handle these risks. But I also believe that as a host, you should make that as easy as possible. That’s why we decided to make Yakka an official part: We wanted to be able to control it. That means to have it at a central location with paramedics, bouncers, easy access for ambulances or police and at an open location where you can easily find scattered drunken bodies. Moreover, we wanted every participant to be able to enjoy the extremely positive atmosphere of a Yakka- party, even if they are not drinking as well.

These thoughts worked: Most people who remember the party liked it and everyone who had problems was taken care of. We had ten cases of people being sent to hospital – that is probably everybody who needed help. All of them are fine now. Just to be clear: At your average private open bar party, those people would just have been brought home by some friends and left alone in their beds.

Since we had the experience from our New Year’s Eve party, where we had more incidents than we could handle, we had professional paramedics at on site. But unfortunately we overestimated the capacity of the people to responsibly enjoy an excessive party. As a result, many volunteers worked incredibly hard to ensure that everyone was taken care of. In the future, it would be wise to have more professionals on site. Thus, my advice to future hosts of tournaments of that scale: Include socials like the Yakka-party in the schedule. They are memorable, and this particular one at Berlin Worlds was legendary. Make sure that everyone who cannot take care of themselves is helped by someone professional. In the end, debaters are grown-ups and there is nothing inherently bad about a bad hangover that teaches you that things have consequences.

Please read the contra article first before writing a comment here.

Text: Marcus Ewald / ama

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9 Kommentare zu “Should the Worlds’ OrgCom host an official Yakka-Party: A Debate / Pro”

  1. Michael says:

    This debate is really an awesome idea and both sites have very nice arguments. But I want to comment the following statement of Marcus: “We had ten cases of people being sent to hospital – that is probably everybody who needed help. All of them are fine now. Just to be clear: At your average private open bar party, those people would just have been brought home by some friends and left alone in their beds.”

    I wasn’t at this Yakka-Party, but this seems obviously wrong. The paramedics told me at the Champions’ Dinner that they needed 10 ambulances for serious cases (‘Rettungswagen’ in german) and some additional ambulances for not-serious cases (‘Krankentransportwagen’) at the Yakka-Party. This is not only bean counting, because here you can see the seriousness of these 10 cases. At this point you can’t say that “those people would just have been brought home by some friends and left alone in their beds.” Such professional paramedics have much experience with this kind of parties. And they know, that they only should call such ambulances for serious cases, when they really need one, because also in Berlin you have only a limited number of ambulances and emergency team (and these teams don’t like to come for a simple medical case in the night).

    And what would you do with an unconscious person (‘bewusstlos’ that means not only sleeping) at “your average private open bar party”? You can’t bring him home and so you can take care of him all night on the party and hope that he will wake up soon (and there is no serious problem with your friend) or you would call the emergency. As I said, I was not this Yakka-Party but I’m sure that there where also some unconscious persons (We had at least one case at New Year’s Eve).

    My key point is: I like also Markus’ arguments for the Pro site, but you should mind not to underrate the occured medical cases and consequent possible dangers.

  2. W. Witthaut says:

    Firstly I want to say that I like the idea to debate this topic. Whoever came up with this: Thank you!!!

    Its just not as easy as Marcus arguments seem in the first place. In reality we did not had everything under control during the whole time. Firstly the party had to get stopped by the police as far as i know (which may be an indicator for a good party but not for an official party where you want to have control of the situation). Secondly there was no control of partys afterwards (and the day after the Yakka-Party) in the hotel which is indeed a problem if the “Yakkageddon” is an official part of the tournament. Thirdly there was no plan to watch out for the drunk people coming back to the hotel. The simple idea to wake up every volunteer who was sleeping in the hotel at that moment was careless. Waking up (some drunk, tired and exhausted) volunteers during the night to stand up against a group of drunk und party-willing debaters is not what i call “control”. Even if grown up people should be able to handle their risks we made a contract with every participant to be their host. I think if a Yakka-Party is an official part of a tournament we should have at least took control of the whole situation. That includes a plan for the time after the party was stopped by the police.

  3. Sher says:

    1) org com made an arrangement with the club owner to start yakka at12 so people would buy his drinks
    – so in effect they let people mix yakka with all the drinks they had before 12;
    2) 12 in itself is faaaar too late to start because people want to get drunk fast;
    3) 700 people paid for yakka – they let in close to 1400 people, – so organizers couldnt monitor who paid and who hadnt – -this meant people were rushing to getyakka becuase they thought itwould run out – – which meant people were drinking it too fast;
    4) they crammed that amount of people in such a tiny venue – it wouldve been much better at the university where there was so much free space.

    Anyway – the YAKKA party was amazing and if some “adults” do not observe the basic “rules of safety”, why majority should suffer?

  4. Eoin Kilkenny says:

    Having been involved in the organisation of two world championships, and a non drinker I would still come down on the side of having a yaka party at the championships.

    I think there were a number of issues with this party in particular that in my opinion led to the difficulties that occurred. I feel if you are going to have a yaka party that the south africans seam to be able to organise it quite well. I have to say in this case the venue was completely unsuitable both in numbers and space provided. Also not allowing the yaka to be distributed until so late in the night allowed for a massive amount of pre yaka drinking. I believe this mixing of drinks led to a more dangerous situation that if pure yaka had been allowed to be consumed over a reasonable number of hours. Also holding it in a venue that was quite far from the hotel and out of the competitions safety zone, ie between the hotel and university, areas we were familiar with. This would help getting those who have consumed too much to bed much earlier in the night.

    I also have to say as a non drinker I was very much intimidated by being forced to go to this venue by virtue of the fact that the results were due to announced at that venue and not at the university as had earlier been announced. I can only presume this was in order to encourage more people at the bar and purchase alcohol.

    That being said I do really respect the organisers of Berlin WUDC, having worked on it twice I know its no easy feat to arrange, however in this case I feel they made more problems for themselves.

    In principle however there should be no reason why a south african run yaka party be encouraged. As in Botswana where it was run extremely well and good mannered from my memory. I very much agree with Marcus that as an official part the organisers can help to seccure and manage the party to a greater extent.

    Eoin Kilkenny

  5. Elise says:

    One aspect that has not been brought out here but should be, is: what kind of an influence does the debating community want to have on its members? I think it is too simplistic to say that people are rational and know what to do. Human beings are damn complex. Everyone wants to be liked by others and thereby adheres to social norms. Is drinking enormous amounts of alcohol really an activity we want to *encourage*? Look at the stats on any European country (and not only European, I am rather sure). Alcohol has terrible consequences. And it’s naive to believe that these consequence only materialise for some “stupid”, “not so rational”, some “other” people. I think alcohol is portrayed in a way too glamorous way in debating circles. We all want to be popular, we all want to belong. Among debaters drinking is made so popular, drinking is what the cool kids do. Let’s us all take a long look into ourselves and deliberate, is it really such *freedom* that makes us want to say “Yay, yakka, yay, alcohol, yay, that’s what relaxing is supposed to be like”. Or do we say that because the wish to adhere to the social norm, that so unerringly perpetuates itself. Don’t we cheer to alcohol because we want to be with the cool kids? And… don’t we ourselves thereby force next generations of debaters and any new debaters to be the same. Yes, *force*. Not “force” in a negative-freedom-sense, but “force” in a what-does-it-actually-mean-to-be-a-human-beings-sense.

  6. Eoin Kilkenny says:

    @elise you make some good points and as a non drinker in the debating community I have often struggled with the involvement of alcohol in Debating. However I actually think the Yaka party is actually one place where this is signifcantly different. The reason being that for most of the Yaka parties I remember you needed to pay in. ie you needed to make an active decision to drink unlike the many many other parties at worlds over the years when free alcohol was given out to anybody who wants it. Thus at least at the yaka party by paying to participate you the organisers (of the party not org comm) can perhaps have some measure of control over you.

  7. Eoin Kilkenny says:

    I meant to say in my comment above that this does not absolve the debating community of looking at its relationship with alcohol merely that the yaka party maybe the least of our problems

  8. 39 says:

    I entirely support the Yakka party, but I also think that those who are not responsible enough and make stupid decision that harms entire debating community deserve a punishment. Please do publicly list everybody that was taken to the hospital, mention the names, they deserve it.

  9. Olivia Sylvia says:

    The thing with debating championships especially with something as big and as prestigious as Worlds is that there are three important reputations on the line. The first of which is the city where it is held, second is the debating organization who forms the official entity in the orgcomm and third is the entire debating community at large. If something amiss to happen during Worlds, something serious enough to get attention of even just local media, all these 3 names will be put into question. It would be bad press for everyone.
    For something like the yakka party, even when everyone is considered to be adult enough to handle themselves, bad things are still bound to happen. When this does, you can’t expect the orgcomm to lift their arms and say “No, it’s not our problem” because somehow, it is going to be. The press for one (in a hypothetical scenario that it will reach them) will make sure of that. And even if the scale of what happened is not so bad, one way or the other it wil be associated with the city (“Oh you know in Berlin it was like this….”) and the debating union officially recognized to host it. It is in this argument that we find how important it is to put some sort of control over something like the yakka party and in Berlin, that was by making it integrated into the social for that particular night.
    And besides, the yakka party is going to happen ANYWAY. (Notice how limited the argument is for it not happening, whether it is officially sanctioned by host organization or not) Again, we hold the entire debating community as a group of adults who are capable of making decisions on their own, so if they want to have a yakka party, there have full right to have one and with a group as stubborn as debaters (I say this as a compliment) you know something like yakkageddon is bound to happen.
    Therefore, I believe it would be advisable for future hosts of Worlds to oversee how the traditional yakka party will be like. The venue and the number of paramedics waiting should at the very least in their responsibility. Furthermore, when they orgcomm takes on this responsibility, it will put them in a position where they can properly sanction someone in cases where something against the organization happens during the party. This in turn may very well be the reason why future participants of the yakka party would be a bit more cautious even when their aim is to get crazy drunk because they know that someone on cite can immediately reprimand them in case he/she goes overboard.
    I speak as someone who has been part of two Worlds orgcomms in a row and has seen how such an event can uplift the 3 reputations I spoke of in the beginning. Like it or not, Worlds is not only known for the brilliant motions and who won what but also how good the socials were hosted by the particular debating group. So something like the yakka party is indeed a crucial issue.

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