Harish Natarajan introduces the debating community to Chennai’s WUDC bid.
In its 32 year history the World Universities Debating Championship has morphed. From a competition that attracted just 43 teams from 7 nations in 1981, its become a thousand plus person tournament with teams from over 40 countries. Worlds has not only become bigger but its also more inclusive. It has grown into a genuine World Championships – where student from all continents and countries complete for the title of World Champion.
One sign of the internationalization of WUDC is the diversity of host countries. In the last decade, Worlds has been hosted in North America (Vancouver), Europe (Cork, Dublin and Antalya), Africa (Stellenbosch and Botswana) and much of Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand).
Given the number of different countries and regions that have hosted Worlds, it is amazing that the Indian Subcontinent has never done so. India, in particular, seems like a natural venue. India has a large English-speaking population, a number of incredible universities and is one of the world’s largest economies. India’s internal debating circuit is well developed. Over 70 universities participate in the activity; they run 60 competitions between them and generate approximately $500,000 in sponsorship money. The largest Indian competitions (run by RVCE and the National Law School) regularly attract 350 plus participants. To get a sense of that scale – NLS and RVCE’s competitions are slightly larger than the Oxford and Cambridge IVs! Indian teams have also had an international presence. The National Law School has regularly sent teams to Worlds, and in recent years so have colleges in Chennai, Delhi, Pune and Bombay. And in 2011, RVCE became the first Indian team to win the Asian British Parliamentary Championships.
The lack of an India WUDC is not just surprising, it is also lamentable. The effect of a South Asian WUDC would be huge. A South Asian Worlds could transform debating in the region. Institutions that lack the means to participate at others WUDC would have the ability to attend if Worlds was in their region.
A number of countries in the region are slowly becoming more engaged in debating. Nepal, for example, has been sending teams to Indian competitions. The students I met at the NALSAR IV, India’s largest BP competition, from Kathmandu were incredibly enthusiastic. They hoped to pass on what they learned to others in their University and in schools across the city. One even suggested teaching debating to decommissioned child soldiers – an area she was particularly invested in. She reminded me that debating could be much more than just a fun activity.
Afghan teams are also starting to participate in debating. Afghanistan sent teams to Malaysian Debating Open – and we would love the welcome them into the global debating fold. Attending Worlds would solidify many student’s interest in debating, and hopefully mean that teams from these countries would come back year on year. A South Asian Worlds could act as the catalytic event that brought more students from across the region into debating, and could help them spread debating to places where it matters most.
After years of dreaming, preparation, half planning and (finally) rigorous planning – the India is ready to host Worlds. Led by Arindam Ghosh and the Rajalakshmi Engineering College (Chennai), in association with RVCE and the National Law School, Worlds may finally be coming to the region. Given what Worlds could mean for India, the entire Indian Debating Community is supporting Chennai Worlds 2014. The Org Com comes from 7 different societies, and includes many of India’s best debaters and organizers.
The Org Com has two main goals. First, to run a Worlds that is accessible and affordable to as many individuals as possible. As part of their commitment to this goal they have set registration fees at 350 Euros (approximately), the lowest since 2005. The Org Com is also striving to produce one of the most indulgent Worlds in memory.
The Chennai Worlds team do not want to bring WUDC to India unless it could showcase the best of the country. And there are few better examples of India’s best than the architectural and stunning ITC Grand Chola. Built as a monument to the Chola Empire, the Grand Chola is one of India’s most luxurious hotels. Its been dubbed India’s first 7* Hotel, complete 600 guest rooms, 9 restaurants and bars, three swimming pools, a 23,000ft spa and a giant auditorium. The Chola is serving as the official residence for all of Chennai Worlds participants.
Chennai Worlds is also hoping to offer some amazing social venues. These include the Marina – the World’s second longest urban beach. Chennai Worlds can promise great food (including some of India’s best), which all will enjoy.
For those who aren’t just coming to Chennai for a holiday, we can also promise a great debating competition. Chennai Worlds is committed to providing the highest quality of adjudication. We want to minimize the number of legitimate judging complaints, and provide the best learning experience to all participants. Our CA team includes Michael Baer (WUDC 2012 Finalist and twice WUDC Grand Final Judge), Ely Zosa (WUDC Octo-Finalist, UADC and Austral s DCA) and myself. Anne Valkering is serving as an ACA – enhancing the adjudication teams knowledge of European debating. Further, we promise a European DCA and at least one ESL or EFL DCA – this makes sure that the ESL and EFL competitions are given the thought and seriousness that they deserve. The Org Com has already committed to spending at least 30,000 Euros on judge travel, in addition to providing 60 registration waivers.
You may be asking whether we can pull this off? We can. We have an Org Com that is experienced. Cumulatively, the Org Com has convened over 20 competitions. We are backed by institutions practiced in running 350 person plus competitions. We have some of the World’s best debaters and experienced organizers providing us advise every step of the way.
REC is incredibly supportive. REC has already agreed to directly finance and underwrite the bid (see our FAQ for details). They’ve agreed to use all their contacts (and have tasked an Administration member) to help secure substantial external financing. REC has gone so far as the postpone exams, allowing hundreds of REC students to help run the event! Organizing and financing the event will not be a problem. India’s first Worlds will show that India is a First World Country.
I am proud to be a part of this incredible event. Chennai Worlds will be more than just a great debating competition. It will help transform debating in the region. We want you all to be a part of this unique event. We hope that you support us in bringing Worlds to India for the first time.
See our Bid Video:
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