Vancouver at four in the morning in the wintertime looks a lot like an alien planet: Closed shops, vacant streets, and dimly lit homes all bathed in a gray lunar light is all there is for anyone to notice at this hour. The only people who happened to be awake were the final devout partygoers downtown, and the weary-eyed travelers on their way to catch early morning flights. I was of the latter.
When we arrived in Toronto, it was a cold but pleasant day. A brisk reminder of the unique nature of Vancouver’s kind Winters. After arriving in the hotel lobby we were greeted by a cheerful MBA Games volunteer wearing a name tag as proof of authenticity and a neon green shirt that was only rivaled in blinding colour intensity by our tie dyed SFU sports team jerseys. We were directed to the registration tables where we were met with more neon clad volunteers who issued each team member a wrist band and a bag of standard issue fare from corporate sponsors. The bag most notably included an aluminum water bottle, and a box of cinnamon toast crunch.
At 7pm that evening we all walked from the main hotel concourse to the banquet hall through a series of stairwells and corridors being met by other school teams in full uniform also on their way to the banquet hall. It was clear at this point that the tone the rest of the weekend was going to take would be an interesting cocktail of friendly conversation mixed with intense competition on the courts and in the boardrooms. It would be a memorable weekend for certain!
Walking through the banquet hall doors revealed the venue for the night: A room the size of a football field, saturated in the enthusiasm of 660 MBA students. With the opening of the symbolic briefcase to commemorate the beginning of the games, the school teams began a series of unique displays of team spirit. Some schools chose to show it with croquet mallets and matching garb, others wielded streamers or electric guitars. Being the international school that we are, it was a clear choice that we use Vuvuzelas for our team anthem herein for the rest of the competition.
A part of the opening ceremony was a chance for every school to have an introductory dance and song. These presentations turned out to be as varied as the schools themselves. Everything from dawning sunglasses and standing in utter stillness, to fully choreographed dance sequences with rock guitar solos were presented with catchy sing-a-long instructions. Even men dressed as ‘single ladies’ bravely entered the stage for everyone’s enjoyment. It was a thoroughly entertaining night, and a grand beginning to the competition.
Of snowstorms and slam dunks
Day two of the competition began with the dissemination of the SFU team into its respective groups and a brave trek through a snowstorm, which delayed all transit to the remote competition facilities. For myself it was a chance to dust off my athletic wear and reacquaint with the rules of basketball. Our team: A group of eager SFU students ready to give our best shot against the competition. We valiantly battled against teams of grand caliber in both skill and stature. The rounds lasted through until the early afternoon with brief periods of rest between games. Some of us used the intermissions to go to the other sports complex and play Soccer, while others just went to cheer on the team.
Athletic events for the night ended late that evening and required us to all transit from the sports facility directly to the hotel and onwards to dinner. Our meal that night was hosted at a local restaurant and bar facility with an open floor platform which was intended to transition into a social gathering space once dinner had finished. It was a great opportunity to discuss with some of the students from other schools and to network. The night wrapped up with dancing and good times were had by all.
On day three, awoken at 6am by the reliable song of the alarm clock, it was beginning to feel abundantly clear that I was not in my regular time zone and that I hadn’t had more than four hours of sleep each night. None of the personal neglect for sleep mattered though, as I fueled the day with several coffees and went on to the next competition that lay ahead: The business simulation.
This year’s business simulation was modeled on the automotive industry in Canada and The United States. The intent of the simulation was to join in teams of three people from each university and form a virtual automotive company through investment in various factories and technologies. Efficient communication, and excellent knowledge of the mechanisms of the simulation were necessary, as well as a keen ability to anticipate what your opponents are likely to invest in. The simulation took place on York University’s main campus and occupied most of the day.
Keynote from a dragon, and the dance of a giant chicken
After the simulation and a small de-brief, it was time to travel back to the hotel and prepare for the social dinner and closing ceremonies. The dinner was provided at the hotel in the same room that we had been introduced to for the opening ceremonies, albeit reformatted to accommodate several dozen banquet tables and a dance floor as a centre piece. Towards the twilight courses of dinner, keynote speakers representing the business elite of the world took the stage to deliver heartfelt speeches. Most notable was one from Arlene Dickinson: A “dragon” from the popular investment television show “The Dragon’s Den” who in her speech had delivered a sincere message for us to follow our dreams in business and stay true to our hearts in life.
Transitioning from the keynote speeches was the moment several school had been waiting for; the awards ceremony. Because of the nature of the scoring structure, it was difficult to be certain exactly where a team had placed within a particular competition. The point structure was done this way on purpose, and was intended to keep the awards ceremony suspenseful. After eagerly awaiting our results, we were exceptionally pleased to place 4th as a university within the ranks of 20 top ranking universities. Several officials, volunteers, representatives, and rival school compadres came to congratulate us on doing exceptionally well, especially considering it was our first year of MBA Games competition.
The night ended with the commemorative closing of the symbolic briefcase, which represented the ending of the MBA Games. Even though the night was far from over, it was a moment to reflect on all the excellent experiences we had as a team at this event. Sharing in closer bonds as no longer being just fellow students, but close friends.
The night kindly transitioned from that moment, to one of jovial dance moves on the dance floor, and enjoyable conversation along its perimeter. Special appearances from a man dressed up as a giant chicken, as well as another dressed as Flash Gordon brightened the dance floor with seasoned dance moves. This quickly transitioned into an outright break-dancing competition for several minutes. It was not only the incredible skill of the dancers that was impressive, but the spontaneity of the whole situation seemingly coming from nowhere that made it especially entertaining. Hours passed, and the floor began to grow thin in population and the telltale signs of a night coming to a close were upon us. It had indeed been a weekend to remember.
Sitting on a row of hard plastic seats, surrounded by friends at the Pearson International Airport waiting for a flight to Vancouver, I could not help but reflect on how great this weekend had been. It had challenges, it required commitment and determination, it was not without it’s brutal tests of will, but it offered so much more in return and I would not hesitate for a second to recommend the experience to anyone.