(Penny spontaneously wrote her own account, which I’m going to claim as a success for the enthusiasm of St Andreans to document Euros on this blog. Blogging! Discourse! Yay!)
Scotland won Euros.
Not in a competitive sense, obviously, with PEP A and Tel Aviv A taking the Open and ESL finals, respectively. However, we were awarded an extremely valuable prize: the opportunity to host Euros in Edinburgh in August 2018.
Huge amounts of credit have to go our own Steph and Duncan, who were involved in the bid from the start and whose passion, vision, and determination to see the process through were crucial in gathering the necessary support. We can’t help but be proud of them, and look forward to a Euros with a St Andrean presence on both the OrgComm and CA team. They, along with Nish, our SSDC President (or, alternatively, “King of Scotland”) and Olivia, who is probably now an honorary Scot, did a fantastic job, both this week, and in the months and months of organisation that went before, and we are certain they are going to host the best Euros ever.
It would be remiss to note that this was a split decision, with a completely tied vote only being settled by the casting vote of the Council President. This is, in and of itself, a measure of the strength of the other two bids, and we are all certain that Riga and Hull would have been great hosts. SSDC is however, certain, that we will give the European debating community one of the most fun weeks of their lives.
(Side-Note: Dan has already decided that he’s going to win Scottish Euros. Beckie suggested that Mooney should do a Masters at St Andrews in Great Ideas. The hype train has left the station.)
Speaking of fun, the last two days of Euros were centred around it, with two massive socials within walking distance of the hotel, including the black-tie Championship Dinner in Warsaw’s Palace of Culture. I can’t even pretend to give a list of all that happened- especially because there’s only so much a vodka-drowned brain can remember – but here are some of the highlights:
– For some reason, the UDS was in a mood to make analogies on Thursday night. The best (and most long-running) was a lengthy session of drawing parallels between European debating circuits and professional football leagues. Most of it is a little too contentious to record, but Richard will bore you with it if you ask him. Suffice to say that the SSDC is the Bundesliga, St Andrews is Borussia Dortmund, and Duncan is Pep Guardiola.
– Penny, having arrived from a day of sightseeing and avoid debating altogether, was determined to enjoy herself, meeting as many people as possible. St Andrews’ corner of conversation where she would stop to ask where people were, borrow our phones to use Messenger, and generally discuss strategy. We therefore decided that Penny was driving a Formula One car, and we were her pit crew.
– Ryan is a Meringue.
– At one point during the social, Harish sat down a few feet behind Richard while he was getting a drink. He wondered out loud whether he should grab one of the legs of his chair and tip him on to his back, just so he could say he rolled another CA.
– Stuart also ended up disappearing, and claimed he ended up having an impromptu sleepover with Edinburgh in which they stayed up to 5am watching Parks and Recreation. Whilst this was true, we thought that it was funnier to imagine that he was busy using his rugged Scottish charm to secure some extra votes for the Euros bid.
– The hangovers were, as expected, dreadful. By the time we emerged for breakfast, we had heard the good news, and ended up having a rather odd conversation with Steph, who, after four cups of coffee, was trying to internalise the fact that she now has less than two years to co-convene the larges student event in Europe.
– Ryan Howson has gotten to the stage that he can correct people on UDS history that happened when he was still in Canada, and they were in St Andrews. We’ll miss him.
– The finals venue was the University of Warsaw Library, which, though beautiful, was filled with extremely uncomfortable temporary wooden chairs. We were not wholly enthusiastic about this. Luckily, we were sat just in front of the Irish contingent, who supplied an excellent atmosphere.
– In case anyone was wondering, it seems like “signal” or “signalling” will be the hot new term in the debating vocabulary. We should probably all start using it now, before it becomes overdone.
– If you watch just one speech from the tournament, make it Dee Courtney’s opposition extension from the Open Final. After CAing our IV, Dee has become a firm friend of the UDS, but, regardless of our own personal allegiances, her speech in the final was a masterclass of both well-analysed argumentation and clear, persuasive rhetoric, all delivered under the most severe pressure. It may not have proved a debate-winning speech, but it was still a magnificent one.
– (It is worth noting that TCD Hist A’s run to the final means that Penny and Beckie, whose Round 9 was effectively an out-round in the sense that only the top two teams broke, were directly put out by a team that came damn close to winning Euros. The Tab, as always, does not tell the whole truth.)
– There is, however, unanimous agreement that Penny topped the socials tab.
– We had an EUDC St Andrews group chat where we could co-ordinate when and where we were meeting up. Often, we would ask where Stuart was, even when he was actually in the room with one of us. This resulted in this piece of existential sadness:
– For pre-drinks, Beckie had asked for someone to nip to the shop to get her a bottle of wine. A 14 zloty bottle of white was selected, which turned out to be fizzy. Apparently it tasted “quite like Lambrini.” You can take the girl out of Essex…
– The SSDC walked to the final dinner singing Flower of Scotland through the Warsaw underground. We certainly know how to make an entrance.
– Meanwhile, Mooney, Doug, Cameron and Richard were back in the lobby with Strathclyde, wondering why we weren’t meeting in the hotel lobby like people said, and questioning whether people who can’t negotiate lifts should be allowed to host Euros.
– The “Championship Dinner” consisted of small amounts of finger food and a free vodka bar. You may be surprised to learn that we may not remember a lot of it.
– Whilst getting our group photos, the St Andrews contingent decided to sing the Gaudeamus. Whilst this seemed entirely appropriate, it may have confirmed our reputation somewhat.
– We also managed to turn “S-S-D-C” into a chant. Hopefully this becomes as popular as shouting “TEL AV-IV” at every opportunity.
– Stuart apparently tried to catch a fox with his bare hands outside the venue. No one can quite remember how or why, least of all him.
There is more than that – other people probably have other things they remember, and will happily tell you about it back in St Andrews. It is safe to say, however, that we had an unbelievable time.
With regards to the tournament as a whole, I think it is fair to say that the OrgComm did a fantastic job. All of the venues were fantastic, from the announcement hall to the out-rounds venue to anywhere that hosted a social. It was my first international, and I had been warned with horror stories about long and confusing delays, inedible food, and extremely dodgy accommodation – those fears were completely unfounded, as the tournament ran mostly on-time and occasionally even ahead of schedule, with the all of the food and accommodation details being perfect. We have felt welcomed in Poland, and I, for one, can’t wait to go back.
There were three things that struck me on the last day, and none of them involved debate, particularly:
1) During the ESL final, halfway through the Prime Minister’s speech, the speaker from Tel Aviv B realised that he had not started his timer correctly. Instinctively, almost without thinking, one of the Leiden speakers on the opposition bench passed him the phone with which he had been timing the speech. It was a small thing, just a little moment between a couple of debaters, and it probably would have happened in any room in the competition. But the fact that it happened in a massive final, potentially the biggest debate of anyone involved’s debating careers, shows the honesty, friendliness, and spirit of generosity that is present throughout European debating.
2) Before the Open final, we listened to a Polish Academic, whom I did not catch the name of, talking on behalf of the hosting institutions about what a pleasure it was to host Euros. As well as sending up a few debate clichés (noting that she had to have three points in her speech, for example) she also spoke about how important it was for this to happen in Poland, where a dictatorship had been overthrown not by violence, but through debate and discourse. I joke, perhaps too often, that we do debating because we all love discourse. But, occasionally, it is welcome to be reminded that talking through issues, and the way we talk about them, is important and has the potential to change the world.
3) As we were pre-drinking, Nish, as SSDC President, addressed us all as a group. He thanked us all for helping with the Euros bid, and looked forward to bringing that same spirit to Edinburgh in two years’ time. More than that, though, he talked about how Scottish debating was a community, a place where all of us, regardless of the fact we come from all over the world, attend different universities, and possess any number of different identities, can feel at home. It was hard not to look around, at old friends and new friends, graduates and freshers (and Duncan, who is, in debating terms, basically immortal at this point), and feel at home, even in a random hotel room in a foreign country. We were at home because we were part of Scottish Debating – a place which we have all contributed to and benefited from. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I loved Warsaw. And I love Scottish Debating.
I’ll see you, hopefully, in the Netherlands in December.