Words by: David Fuentes (IJF Referee)
Having been invited by the IJF to referee in the Judo World Tour is a huge honour.
The Paris Grand Slam is the biggest and most prestigious event in the Judo World Tour and having the chance to referee at this event on my birthday, it was really the icing of the cake.
As you arrive and you are picked up by the organisers, you realise it is a different event. The people waiting for the arrivals, were ready and wearing uniforms with the competition logo, the hotel was decorated with posters of the event. Everyone coming into the bubble must do a PCR test and must wait in their rooms for about an hour before they get their results, so they have a laboratory set up in the hotel.
It was great to meet friends and colleagues once again from previous competitions. There were 4 new referees for Paris including myself and the more senior referees made us feel welcome. On Friday afternoon we had the referee meeting on the mat where the referee directors went through some situations. We as referees had to also re-create these situations with some “light randori”. Even though it was light randori, there were some bruised faces and scratches, which is not a good look for the cameras.
As you enter the Arena in Bercy, one realises how big the event really is. This year the Paris Grand Slam celebrated 50 years. There is a high level of organisation, logistics and communications, multiple accreditation controls and many teams of volunteers. There are multiple cameras per mat and it is going live on TV.
Once the crowd starts to come in, the excitement and the noise starts to build up. The French crowd is very knowledgeable in Judo. When one of their athletes is announced, the crowd goes wild. I was fortunate to referee one of the big names in France. When you stand on the mat and hear the crowd singing the athletes name and cheering for every attack, every penalty, every escape, then you realise you are somewhere special.
As a new referee in the World Tour, I was privileged enough to be selected by the referee commission to referee in the final block on the second day. I am hoping I did a good enough job to be invited again in the future and be able to represent Australia on the international stage.