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What It Takes To Coordinate Game Operations & Delivery For The Canadian Paralympic Committee

Maggie Brennan | Senior Coordinator, Games Operations & Delivery | Canadian Paralympic Committee

Sport is a universal language. It brings people together beyond their differences, breaks down barriers of religion, ethnicity, language, and ability.

Maggie Brennan

Senior Coordinator, Games Operations & Delivery

Canadian Paralympic Committee

× The interview with Maggie Brennan was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as Senior Coordinator of Games Operations & Delivery for the Canadian Paralympic Committee. What does a typical day look like for you?

One of the things I love about my job is that there really is no such thing! Every day is different. The role is ever-changing and evolving as is our organization.

My days are spent focused on the planning and coordination of my assigned Major Games projects. This includes our Travel & Accommodation programs for the Paralympic and Parapan American Games. I work with members of our team and a variety of service providers to prepare and provide the best possible services we can to our athletes and coaches. We want to ensure that they can seamlessly enter and exit the Games environment completely focused on their performance goals without any distractions. Our team is doing our job well if we go unnoticed behind the scenes. 

Instead of a typical day, I thought I might walk readers through an exciting day of my job, one that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience 3 times in my career – Opening Ceremony Day!

It’s 8:00 on Opening Ceremony Day at the Lima 2019 Parapan American Games. I have a team of two mission staff to support the execution of travel, transportation and telecommunication services. My colleague and I are waking up after completing an overnight airport arrival at 2:15 earlier that morning. The third member of our team is working on transportation and has been operating our services since 7:00. Before leaving my village apartment shared amongst 6 colleagues, I put on my Opening Ceremony clothing for later that afternoon.

At 10:00, we have our daily CPC village staff meeting to discuss the day, including providing key updates, addressing any ongoing challenges, and ensuring everyone is equipped to fulfill their role for the day. Following this meeting, I’d spend some time planning for the days ahead – schedules of mission staff and service providers, monitoring flights, sharing relevant communications and at this stage usually still ironing out some kinks in a few of my operational areas.

At 14:00 the Team Canada Pep Rally begins inside the village! Our Chef de Mission delivers an inspiring speech to the athletes and staff in celebration of the Games officially opening. During this, our staff are stealthily checking to ensure everyone is wearing the proper attire so the team parades out into the stadium looking as sharp as ever. At 14:45, our staff begin to escort the team towards the Village Transportation Mall, where we are set to catch the buses from the Village to the Ceremony location.

From 16:30 until 19:00, we are waiting at a beautiful fountain park with all the other countries until we slowly begin approaching the stadium to enter the Parade of Nations from 19:06 – 19:51. At 20:11, the first early departure buses begin for athletes who want to leave the ceremony early and get a good rest before a day of competition, escorted by CPC Operations Staff. Regular departures begin from the ceremony at 21:10 back to the Parapan American Village.

What It Takes To Coordinate Game Operations & Delivery For The Canadian Paralympic Committee

Upon arriving back to the village at approximately 22:00, myself and a colleague head to the Main Entrance of the village to catch a car we have booked to take us to the airport to welcome another arrival of athletes and staff. Their flight lands at 1:00, and we hop on Lima 2019 transportation back to the village, to then hit the pillow shortly after 2:00. And the next day… the Games begin!

When was the point you realized that you were meant to do this career? Take us through that realization.

I was fortunate growing up that my parents enrolled me in a variety of sports. I developed an affinity for hockey and soccer – I enjoyed the team environment, the sense of purpose and fulfillment it gave me, and the friends I made – many of whom are some of my closest now as an adult.

As I reached near the end of high school, I had an interest in business and a passion for sport and stumbled across the Sports Administration program at Laurentian University. This was a great fit for me as I was also able to play for their Varsity Women’s Hockey team while pursuing my degree.

Since that journey started, I would say there have been a number of times in the early years of my career that have confirmed my passion for the industry and attitude on this career path. However, there are a few that stand-out. The first was as a volunteer at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015. I loved the hustle and bustle of it all – the attention to detail, the coordination, being close to the action and working alongside a group of individuals so passionate about delivering success while enjoying every moment of long, hard-working days.

Fast forward a few years and I was fortunate to be working in a full-time role at the CPC. My first few Major Games experiences at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympics and the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic 2018 really confirmed my choices and passion for the work I was doing. Sport is incredibly powerful. Watching athletes accomplish goals, achieve greatness and reach their full potential while being able to play even just a minuscule part of that behind the scenes is extremely humbling and fulfilling.

In your role, you manage arrivals and departures, transportation and telecommunications. The event management side of the sports industry in which you work, gets stereotyped for attracting detail-oriented individuals. Talk about this stereotype and if you’d characterize yourself this way.

I can certainly agree that being detail-oriented is an important characteristic for professionals working events, including Major Games. To give a few examples, if I do not focus on attention to detail in my projects this could result in things such as an individual not getting picked up at the airport in a foreign country, multiple people assigned to the same room at an accommodation, or vehicles taking individuals to the wrong place.

When you’re coordinating operations for hundreds of people, the minor details can have really significant impacts. Our role in Games Operations is to provide services for athletes that make it easier for them to navigate the Games, solely focused on their task at hand – no matter how much is actually going on behind the scenes!


Maggie Brennan | Senior Coordinator, Games Operations & Delivery | Canadian Paralympic Committee

When it comes to planning, it is also important to prepare for the unknown. While details are essential, it is important to have the awareness that the unexpected will in fact occur – that at a Games things are going to happen that are out of our control entirely and we need to be able to recognize, adapt and adjust our plans relatively quickly. Being able to think on our feet in a fast-paced environment is critical.

How has the re-scheduling of the 2021 Summer Paralympics changed your role and plans for the rest of the year?

When the notice came out from the IOC that the Games were officially postponed, I was getting a McFlurry at a McDonalds drive-thru (because why not) and I’ll never forget the moment. I remember the next morning starting my day and everything I had planned to be working on was now irrelevant or at the very least certainly not required in the immediate future. It was a whirlwind the first few days because although looking back now it seems as though there was really no other option than to postpone the Games, this wasn’t as clear in late March / early April when it all developed so quickly.

The first thing we had to do in Games Operations was assess the impact of the postponement on all of our programming to identify risks, necessary changes and opportunities. Very quickly, we knew the approach to tackling such a large change was as an opportunity. Although due to the negative impact of COVID-19, we on our team needed to approach the postponement as an opportunity to innovate and enhance all that we do so that when the Paralympic Games occur in 2021, we are able to offer the best services to our National Sport Organizations and athletes to shine on that world stage.

Throughout your career you’ve worked/volunteered for many non-profits such as the Canadian Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee, Canada Soccer, Volleyball Canada, and now the Canadian Paralympic Committee. What is the greatest reward that you have experienced working in the non-profit sector?

In 2018, I was really fortunate to be selected for a volunteer role with the Canadian Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee at the Youth Olympic Games as a “Young Change-Maker”. This has led me on a journey I could never have imagined and opened my eyes to the true power of sport. As part of the IOC Young Leaders program, I get to learn from, work with and be inspired by other passionate people from around the world using sport as a tool for social change to improve their communities.

At the Youth Olympic Games, we visited a primary school with our Youth Olympic team, and I’ll never forget the smiles on all of the children’s faces in awe of the Canadian Youth Olympians, and how much grace and leadership the young athletes showed to those kids. I get to witness much of the same inspiration as a minor hockey coach working with young athletes, who challenge and surprise me every day.

Sport is a universal language. It brings people together beyond their differences, breaks down barriers of religion, ethnicity, language, and ability.

Being able to work a job that supports athletes behind the scenes, in combination with coaching and my role with young athletes through the IOC Young Leaders program, it is so rewarding to see athletes who are incredibly talented, motivated, hard-working and also making a difference in their communities and our world.

Finally, our audience is looking for some optimism in the sports industry and would love to hear your thoughts. Tell us why there is reason to be optimistic about the sport/event management field despite COVID-19.

It is quite evident that COVID-19 has had large implications on the sport and event industry. While it has been difficult for event managers, sport administrators, coaches, athletes and truthfully everyone due to all of the ongoing changes and unknowns, it is also is making organizations and the people within them more resilient and taking on challenges they have never seen before or could have imagined. It is forcing people to think outside the box and be innovative in their thinking.

I anticipate seeing some big changes in the industry, and those that are positive to aspiring sport administrators and the other individuals I listed above. Fortunately, we have seen more postponements than cancellations, which I think is something to remain optimistic about.  If we look to history and some of our world’s biggest challenges (IE. World Wars), some of the greatness innovations and advancements in our world have come from these eras, and in the case of COVID-19 we are all fighting on the same side – us against the virus. The comeback is always greater than the setback is something I like to continuously remind myself of during these hard times.

Hayley Michie Hayley's Final Thoughts

Maggie’s role encompasses A LOT. But, when you have drive and passion (as Maggie does), it’s a breeze. Throughout this interview, I learned just how passionate Maggie is about not only her multiple roles, but sport as a whole. Besides her roles with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and the IOC Young Leaders program, Maggie volunteers her time as a minor hockey coach. It’s incredibly uplifting to see Maggie promote the sport she loved for so many years to young children, showing them the ropes. Even though the 2020 Summer Paralympics have now been postponed to 2021, Maggie is continuing to be optimistic. As Maggie mentioned, the comeback is always greater than the setback and we can’t wait to see hers!

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