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World Beach Games in California Hit Low Tide, Reschedule for 2019

24 Aug, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Organizers Say Extra Time Will Allow Athletes to Prepare, Pundits Say Money is the Issue

The 2017 ANOC Beach Games, while not a washout, do appear to be the victim of a low tide.

The event, a multi-discipline festival of sand and water sports which had been scheduled for late September and early October in San Diego, and which was announced with much fanfare early in the year, now has been pushed back several years and officials are saying it won’t be produced until 2019.

In its recent executive committee meeting, the Association of National Olympic Committees made the announcement concerning rescheduling. According to an article in Inside The Games, ANOC’s official position was that the step was taken in order to allow national Olympic committees and international federations “optimum time to prepare their athletes” for the event.

But if some industry sources are to be believed, there is more to it than that. After all, this was an event that seemingly had everything going for it: an array of sports that would bring in international athletes (including beach volleyball, one of the biggest spectator attractions around) and which would showcase surfing, a sport just given IOC approval for Tokyo in 2020. It also had a number of extreme sports that would draw the attention of the youth demographic Olympic committees are craving. And following an Olympic year, there would be plenty of athletes for many of the sports, already in top form.

So what went wrong?

According to Inside The Games, although the event’s initial buzz was good, progress has been slow, particularly surrounding the marketing and financing of the event. And no matter when they are produced, the Beach Games will not be an inexpensive undertaking. In May, an article in Sports Destination Management noted that according to various estimates, the Games would cost anywhere from $135 million to $150 million to stage. The biggest expense, according to the Times of San Diego, would be the $45 million cost of flying the athletes in and accommodating them. An original plan to house athletes and officials on cruise ships was scrapped and an alternate plan was to have athletes stay at Hotel Circle, an area in San Diego which includes hotels from many of the major chains.

At the time, it was thought that funds for this and the rest of the event would be raised by ANOC through marketing and sponsorship and television rights. A section of the website invited potential sponsors to e-mail organizers, and in December 2015, ANOC put out a call for proposals from any entities interested in acquiring the commercial rights for the event. However, no news followed as to whether sponsorships had been secured, nor whether the commercial rights had been awarded.

Should the Games have failed to gain financial traction, it could have been because of the overwhelming attention being paid at the same time to the then-upcoming summer Olympics in Rio. That event, after all, had more than its share of buzz, but also had garnered a great deal of sponsorship and coverage. A lesser-known event, by comparsion, might not seem as viable, nor as commercially inviting.

ANOC, however, did not mention any hardship. According to Inside The Games, a statement claimed that while “excellent progress” had taken place over the eight months since the Games were awarded to the U.S., and that while San Diego was “in a position to deliver the event in 2017,” it was “mutually agreed that postponing the event would be to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

“After careful consideration, the ANOC Executive Council, with the support of San Diego, has taken the decision to move the first edition of the ANOC World Beach Games to 2019,” said ANOC President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah following the meeting.

“We are committed to working with all our stakeholders to deliver the best possible event which will benefit the NOCs, their athletes and the entire Olympic Movement and we believe that moving the event to 2019 will allow us to do that. The ANOC World Beach Games is part of ANOC's long-term vision to enhance the support and opportunities we can provide NOCs and their athletes, particularly around engaging more young people in sport. Moving the event to 2019 will not just benefit NOCs and their athletes but by giving them more time to prepare for the event we can guarantee that millions of spectators around the world will enjoy and be inspired by even greater performances.”

Meanwhile, very little information has been published on the rescheduling. The website for the event still carries a 2017 date and logo, but all details regarding sports, venues and dates have been removed. A link that says “Contribute” leads only to a form for individuals to volunteer, and notes, “It is still early in our planning process and we aren't accepting donations just yet.”

Originally, the World Beach Games were to include beach-based track & field, wrestling, American flag football, beach tennis, beach volleyball, soccer, wrestling, handball, BMX, canoeing, Ultimate, surfing, jet skiing, triathlon, karate, taekwondo, skateboarding, marathon swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, climbing, water polo, windsurfing, e-sports and 3-on-3 basketball – although it was noted that more sports might be added.

The event, if it comes to fruition, will create solid economic impact for San Diego. Inside the Games has stated the World Beach Games could attract up to 5,000 athletes from more than 200 countries. Up to 50,000 spectators could be expected per day at Mission Beach, with an additional 10,000 attending sports held at venues on downtown piers.

The San Diego Tourism Marketing District underwrote the successful bid, providing $380,000 toward the event.

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