Games Profile: Leon Bevans, A Passionate Connector

By Myra Ross - Monday, May 4 2015

Leon Bevans

 

When athletes, coaches, friends and family members arrive in Fort McMurray for the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games this August, most will be carrying cell phones, smart phones and tablets in their suitcases and pockets.

Over the 10-day event and throughout the 18 official sports competitions, a primary activity for the estimated 14,000 spectators, 2,500 athletes and 3,500 volunteers, staff and media will be sharing the drama and the results of Games events.

The numbers suggest a surge in demand for wireless bandwidth. And that’s where the expertise of Leon Bevans, the Manager of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and the Games' volunteer workforce, come in.

“My biggest priority is to get the volunteers we need and, on the ICT side, that we have the wireless capacity for 14,000 guests,” Bevans explains. “This event will rely heavily on the cloud and we will require the capacity for connectivity. The backbone of this connectivity will be our local wireless providers, Rogers, Telus and Bell. We believe it is just as important to them as it is to us that everyone will be able to connect. As well, many of the venues are equipped with public WiFi networks.”

“During my first Games in 2004, we had cell phones. We didn’t have smart phones and we didn’t have tablets. But since then, it has changed considerably. There are a lot of applications that run in the cloud and because of the proliferation of mobile devices, the chief challenge is having connection to the Internet.”

Responsible for the physical components for communications during the Games, including phones, cell phones and mobile radios, Bevans is also an authority on GEMS, a Games and event management tool introduced in 2002 as a professional set of administrative and logistical solutions for the 2002 Arctic Winter Games in Nuuk, Greenland.

Bevans first worked with GEMS in 2004 when Wood Buffalo hosted the Arctic Winter Games and he was the co-director of ICT.

“We were the second Games host community to use GEMS,” explains Bevans, who endorses the developer’s claim that the system has evolved since 2002 to suit the needs of a number of major multi-venue, multi-language, multi-sport assignments in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, handling up to 35,000 participants and 7,500 volunteers and serving a daily average of 500,000 web pages to 40,000 Internet users.

That’s a lot of people, places, times and tasks to track and manage.

“Once a volunteer is registered in GEMS, there’s a record of the area of interest, availability, and location they’ve selected," says Bevans. "Using the volunteer planning and scheduling features of GEMS, each Games committee has a volunteer workforce manager or scheduler who schedules the volunteer based on their selections, so it’s really a sophisticated workforce management tool for large-scale events."

“The analogy that the developer, Kimik iT, likes to use is that GEMS removes the haystack so you can find the needle."

“GEMS was used in Prince George, B.C., this past winter for the Canada Winter Games,” he says. “It will also be used this July by the Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.”

In fact, Bevans is so GEMS-knowledgeable that he has written a guide on how to configure the system.

“Until now there hasn’t been a manual, but I’ve written one to be delivered to the next Western Canada Games host community,” he says. “They’ll now have a manual to use. For example, when a workforce scheduler is identified, they’ll get the appropriate section of GEMS guide. Having that guide provides a lot of help and cuts down on a lot of person hours.”

“I think the reason I was asked to manage the Games volunteers is because I administer the GEMS system. Because GEMS is our core volunteer registration tool, it made sense that I would take on the volunteer portfolio generally, but the day to day coordination of the volunteers, their engagement and their training, is managed by Michelle Farrow.

“We currently have more than 700 grassroots volunteers not including directors, staff and committee chairs and there are many more to come as the goal is for all of The Games 3,000 volunteers to be registered in GEMS by June 7, 2015,” he says.

Bevans jokingly refers to himself as the grandpa of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games team.

The father of six children and grandfather to five, he has a bit more life experience than some of his team members.

“I graduated from the University of Alberta in 1981 and then worked in Edson and Fort McLeod before moving to Fort McMurray in 1987 to teach in the new high school. I taught at Westwood Community High School for nine years, with one year seconded to the district office to implement a new computer system. Then returned to the school district office for 12 years followed by five years in the private sector."

“Patsy, my wife, who worked from home for two decades while we raised our children, obtained her Masters degree and is now the HR Manager with a local construction company. Our oldest child is 35 now, raising three of our grandchildren, and the youngest is 22 and in Capilano University doing a four year degree in musical theatre.”

What Bevans is most looking forward to with the Games is “seeing the final result of all our collective efforts.”

He says that because of his involvement with Games, he has travelled to Greenland to connect with folks from Greenland and Denmark about GEMS.

“They have extensive skills and experience with games and we work collaboratively so it has been an opportunity to develop a closer connection with them. Professionally, I have a passion for ICT. With the Games I get to work in something I’m truly passionate about and then pass it on after making it better."

“It’s kind of like helping someone out so that down the road they will benefit from it and hopefully appreciate it."

“These Games will reflect the new age we live in," Bevans says. "Today, ICT is a very big part of most any event. It may just be at the back end, but the entire operation of our Games will be very dependent on information and communications, from cell phones to tablets.”

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