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HEC Paris Stages Its Annual Olympic Games for MBA Students

HEC Paris MBAT

This year will see Rio de Janeiro host the Summer Olympic Games, a major international event that takes place only once every four years. HEC Paris, however, stages an ‘MBA Olympics’ each and every year and its latest installment took place last weekend.


HEC Paris values its annual games so highly that the occasion is integrated into its MBA program, thereby encouraging students from the school to participate. But, it also allows a student team to manage every aspect of the event’s organization and execution – from marketing and finance to logistics and, of course, staging the games themselves.

The 2016 edition of HEC Paris’s MBA Tournament (MBAT) saw school teams of MBA students compete across 25 different sports ranging from football (soccer), badminton and chess to petanque, paintball and salsa. Andrea Masini, the school’s associate dean for the MBA, has been quick to point to the scale of an event that reportedly attracted 1,500 MBAs from 17 different European institutions: “Far from being just a sporting event, it’s the biggest gathering of MBA students in Europe.”

Organizing MBA students talk up teamwork and networking benefits

In this sense, the event presents clear networking possibilities and, this year, the organizers decided to build on this by creating an ‘All Star’ team in which MBAs from different schools competed on the same team.

“In a regular tournament, competitiveness and pride about your own program can be strong.  The All Star Game initiative is all about having fun, integrating and creating a friendly atmosphere and fantastic experience between schools,” explained Paolo Durand, one of the MBA students at the helm of the event’s organization.

Meanwhile, MBAT’s student co-president for the year, Sue Jean Tay, pointed to the interactions between fellow team members from diverse backgrounds and nationalities as a further benefit: “As multicultural workplaces are becoming the norm for many employers, the MBAT truly prepares participants for their future career through teamwork in an international context.”

Winners at MBAT 2016

In total, 70 nationalities were said to have been in attendance at MBAT 2016. Yet, despite the high level of international diversity commonly found on MBA programs in Europe, some business schools claimed victory in sports often associated with the country of their campus locations. For example, the UK’s Oxford Saïd claimed gold in cricket and in rowing while salsa, whose origins lie in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, was won by a team from the Spanish-speaking part of the Iberian Peninsula, IE Business School.  

One might argue that it is more of a surprise to see a UK institution (London Business School) defeating one from Germany (ESMT) in the football final, except that this wasn’t football but foosball (aka table football or kicker). The soccer (both the women’s and men’s events) was won by the Barcelona-based, ESADE Business School, which will make a lot more sense to followers of European club football. In addition, you might want to think carefully before putting too much at stake in a game of poker with MBA students from Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) – they won gold in that event. Although, RSM also won the ‘University Spirit Award’, an accolade which seems to epitomize what the tournament stands for.


However, there was a home win overall, with HEC Paris taking first place ahead of London Business School (which has won the previous two installments) and IE Business School in second and third place, respectively. Although in fairness, like bigger nations competing in the Olympic Games, these schools might be aided by their larger MBA student populations. For example, IMD, which has the misfortune of propping up the foot of this year’s overall table, usually has a class size of 90 MBA students, as opposed to the 417 members of London Business School’s class of 2017.

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Written by Tim Dhoul

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).

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