Eduardo Leonardo could be described as the face of the Rio hockey legacy. From the first moment he discovered he had been appointed as Hockey Venue Supervisor at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, until the final whistle blew at the end of the last game of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Eduardo was one of the people leading a hockey revolution in Brazil. Now he works at the International Hockey Federation (FIH) office in Lausanne as Sport Manager, running international events across the globe.
“Last year I saw snow for the first time,” says Eduardo. A year on, he is relishing both his role at FIH and life in Switzerland. “Since I started with FIH, every day is a learning opportunity. I now understand the wider objectives and strategy of the federation and how it is not just about one event but about the growth of the sport in a global way. This macro view is the biggest change for me.”
The past few months have been a whirlwind of hockey activity in a variety of very different settings for the quietly-spoken Brazliian. He was at the centre of the action for the Women’s Junior World Cup in Chile, World League Round 2 in Bangladesh, World League Semi-Finals in London and the World League Semi-Final in South Africa.
During these events, Eduardo was able to bring two very different perspectives to the organisation and running of the competitions. There is the knowledge and training he has undertaken since joining FIH, but this is married with knowledge gained as an organiser from the host nation.
“The most important thing I can bring is the first-hand knowledge of the difficulties that sometimes the other side faces to meet FIH standards. Often it is lack of money, for others it may be lack of structure (people, facilities, etc) to host an event. With this understanding we can prioritise what we need to deliver and make sure that even with all the challenges we will be able to deliver a good event.”
And Eduardo speaks with a voice of experience. He was Sport Manager at Rio 2016 and says, “Being Sport Manager is more than being a person that runs the competition. In Rio, for example, I was very involved in all the build up, mainly because no-one knew hockey very well in Brazil, so you need to teach them and explain the culture of the sport. I had 12 paid staff and 200 volunteers: these people needed to know everything about hockey players, for example what they like to eat, how they like to arrive at the venue, the whole culture of being a hockey player. It was the same for the officials, they have ways of doing things and certain requirements to do their job effectively. I needed to drum into my team how to think like a hockey player."
Much of the role as a local organising committee Sport Manager is about building relationships says Eduardo. "Establishing a good relationship between the local organising committee and the FIH is essential for a successful tournament," he says, "but equally important is the quality within the local organising team. You must find the right people to work with you. I have learnt that these are not always the most expensive people, but they are the right people. The most important thing is to be confident in this person; even if they do not know everything, they will do what you are requesting and they will deliver the best that they can.”
Now in his role as FIH Sport Manager, Eduardo has a global oversight of the game, but he thinks the fundamentals of running a competition remain the same, whichever side of the organising team you are with. “I believe the recipe for overcoming any challenge is to create a good relationship with the group of people you work with. In any event there will always be problems, what changes is how you respond to them and how you interact with the others to solve and create alternative solutions.”