Moscow story

Moscow APG article
Moscow story
Moscow Team Photo


in Moscow



Everyone knows that R.P. Scherer makes good paintballs. What most people don't know, however, is that R.P. Scherer goes to extraordinary lengths to enable people to use their product. Every company faces marketing difficulties, but nothing quite matches that of the "Russian tournament" in terms of the truly bizarre.

The idea of having a tournament in Moscow started about a year ago. Paintball is relatively new in Russia, originating only about two years ago. It emerged rapidly, however, and the Russian National Association of Paintball was organized in the summer of 1993. After contacting the IPPA for advice concerning rules, field operations, etc., it was suggested that there be reciprocal visits by Russian and American teams to each other's events.

A delegation of Russians attended the International Masters in Nashville last October with the assistance of the American paintball industry including Jim Lively, R.P. Scherer, Forrest Brown, et al. In return, the Russian National Paintball Association invited the Green Machine International Training and Demonstration Team to Moscow for an event in May 1994. Unfortunately, the dates of the event coincided with that of Mayhem Masters, so a number of teams which might have been in attendance were unable to do so. Scheduling is so difficult in Russia that the organizers were forced to stick with the dates originally planned.

Communicating with Russia is difficult (and expensive) under almost any circumstances. Not only is there an eight-hour time difference between the East Coast United States and Moscow, so business hours communications are virtually impossible. Coupled with this, of course, is the significant language problem that further causes delays. The organizers therefore relied primarily upon faxes to communicate.

On both sides, files 4" thick were filled with documents related to the planning process. On the U.S. side, the Green Machine was sponsored by Scott Goggles, R.P. Scherer, Palmer's Pursuit Shop and Airgun Design. Obtaining the sponsorships was relatively easy compared to organizing the event the sponsors had underwritten.

Logistics in Russia are daunting at best. Since there are no private paintball fields in Russia, the Russian side had to locate public lands on which to play, find hotels, cars, buses, etc., for transport and local sponsors. More than six months' planning went into this effort. A week before the tournament, the American players still did not know where they would be staying.

As in any tournament, several factors are absolutely critical:

1. Players;
2. Field;
3. Paintguns;
4. C02;
5. Masks; and
6. Paintballs.

Organizers focused on these issues first and were relatively confident that most of them had been addressed well in advance. The roster on the American side was finalized in late March. The Russians made arrangements for an appropriate field and the Americans promised to bring as many paintguns as they could with them to augment the rather meager Russian arsenal. Scott USA's generosity assured that there would be sufficient goggles for all of the players and the Russians were confident of their ability to supply C02 having had adapters specially made for the U.S. fittings. That left only paint as a matter of concern.

R.P. Scherer had agreed to supply 60 cases of paint to the tournament. It was due to arrive the day before the American team did which was still a week before the tournament was schedule to commence. The paint was shipped by R.P. Scherer via air freight to Moscow in plenty of time to reach its destination. That was the just the beginning of the saga.

Upon landing in Russia, the organizers were astonished to find the paint had not, in fact, arrived. Instead, after leaving Miami for Moscow, the airline (KLM) without notifying anyone, had decided that the pallet on which the paintballs were packed was too large for onward flight to Moscow. Apparently, it had been shipped on a 747 from Miami to Amsterdam. The plane that KLM uses for the Amsterdam to Moscow flight is smaller. Therefore, the airline unilaterally decided not to ship the goods by air but rather by truck.

Three days before the tournament was due to start, the organizers were informed of the decision that KLM had taken. The result of this was, of course, the paint would not arrive in Moscow until two days after the American team had already left the country. To compound the problem, the truck had already departed from Amsterdam and could not be recalled.

After a fluffy of frantic telephone calls, the organizers prevailed upon R.P. Scherer to contact their distributors in England (Mayhem) for a replacement. As noted before, however, the Mayhem Masters was being held the same weekend and, as one might imagine, the organizers of that tournament had other things on their mind than supplying paint to the Russians. Nevertheless, in the spirit of real friendship, the Mayhem people came through to assist with organizing air freight for the paint to arrive the very next day in Moscow still in plenty of time for the tournament.

They delivered the paint to British Airways at Gatwick Airport in London. While the Russian tournament organizers were busy celebrating, however, others were not. As sometimes happens in the chaotic labor situation in England, that day there was a work slowdown and the goods were not loaded on the aircraft as promised, but rather the next day. This is the day the tournament was originally supposed to start.

In fact, the goods did not arrive until late on a Friday afternoon at Sherementeyvo Airport in Moscow. This was too late to have it cleared through Customs. It would only be released on Monday, the day the American team was due to leave for the United States.

In the meantime, the American team had been assisting the Russian organizers in setting up the field which was located in the northern suburbs of the city at a truly world class shooting club. While the Americans and their Russian friends were tying up netting, taping fields and establishing flag stations, other organizers were agonizing over what to do about paint. The Russian side inventoried all of the paint available in the entire country -it came to a little less than 10 cases. (All of it R.P. Scherer, by the way.)

Frantic calls to the Russian freight forwarders and customs authorities were made and it was finally determined that the tournament would proceed as if sufficient paint were available. It was decided that on Saturday, the Russians would bring every drop of paint available in the country to the field for a "practice day". On Sunday, however, all teams agreed to meet at the field with the expectation that the Russian customs could be induced to waive their usual schedule and release the goods Sunday afternoon.

The Saturday "practice" came off without a hitch. The Russians organizers were able to scrounge nine cases of paint from cellars, closets and attics.

The Moscow Bureau of NBC News was on the field with correspondent Amy Roth and her film crew. Amy became so intrigued with the game that she was put into one of the five-player practice sessions. It could not have been orchestrated better if we had tried. All of the players were eliminated except Amy. She was on the field by herself with three minutes to go and yelled to the spectators to ask what she was supposed to do. Breaching ordinary rules, the spectators told her to grab the flag and hang it. Amy got a hang on her very first game. The NBC segment was aired on local (Moscow) television the week of May 30 and later in the United States on various stations in a "magazine" format.

On Sunday, the Russian and American teams arrived at the field without any paint at all, The organizers, however, had arranged to make "facilitation payments" to the Russian Customs Service to induce them to release the goods on a Sunday. At approximately 1:15 p.m. a truck arrived at the field with 40 cases of fresh R.P. Scherer paint from Mayhem. To suggest that the organizers were relieved would be the understatement of the decade.

The tournament itself went off without further serious hitches. Although the American teams were generally superior, there were furious fire fights throughout the day. Perhaps one of the most memorable battles was between the two American teams, (Green Machine Red and Green Machine Black). In this, the Black team (composed primarily of "Mufs" - the "Old Geezers") proved that they could still fight against young bucks, won the game and therefore the entire tournament. Green Machine Red was second with two Russian teams tied for third place.

Through the generosity of Jim Lively and Lively Productions, one of the highest-scoring Russian teams was given a waiver of entry fees into the International Masters at Nashville this coming October and both Russian teams received Automags from Airgun Designs as well as face masks from Scott USA. Thereafter, the Green Machine both donated and sold truckloads of equipment to the Russians so they will be well-armed in October.

The tournament itself was a cap to a week of camaraderie between the Americans and the Russians. Some of the cultural diplomacy was so close it could not be adequately described in a family publication such as this but both the Russians and the Americans returned to their respective abodes exhausted and exhilarated.

The Russian National Association of Paintball has now completed its first major international tournament and came through with flying colors. R.P. Scherer, in particular, is largely responsible for the success of this tournament, not only for the quality of its paint, but for the extraordinary effort it demonstrated to make this event a success. Between R.P. Scherer and Maalox, the first-ever Moscow open showed that the Cold War really is over. Let's hope that we never shoot anything more dangerous than paintballs at each other again.



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Last updated: February 21, 2009.