The last time we checked in on the World Beach Games, scheduled for this coming summer in San Diego… well, it’s fair to say they weren’t scheduled for this coming summer any longer, and nobody was answering any questions about them.
The multi-disciplinary waterside sport extravaganza sponsored by the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) that was to feature water sports, sand sports and just plain fun sports (hey, skateboarding and eSports were even included) went from being announced with much fanfare as taking place in the fall of 2017, to quietly changing the website to reflect a new date of 2019 and including few other details as to why.
Despite reports stating that ANOC’s official position was that the step of rescheduling was taken in order to allow national Olympic committees and international federations “optimum time to prepare their athletes” for the event, pundits said there was doubt as to whether the Games were actually marketable or that financing was in place.
For now, it appears plans include a stripped-down version of the event to be presented in October of 2019, according to an article in Inside The Games.
The Games include a severely pruned-back budget (from $135 million to just $50 million), according to a statement from San Diego Exploratory Committee member Vincent Mudd.
San Diego also now owns 100 per cent of the commercial rights, the Times of San Diego quoted former triple jumper turned new Organizing Committee President Willie Banks as saying, although profits will still be split with ANOC. (In other words, it appears to be up to San Diego to negotiate media buys for the event.)
Optimism remains high, however, with the World Beach Games stating it intends to draw athletes from 206 nations, according to an article in the Times of San Diego. The article noted there would be no athletes’ village built (athletes can stay in local hotels instead, in order to keep a lid on expenses), and that opening ceremonies are planned for Petco Park, providing an agreement can be reached with current users, the San Diego Padres. Seating will be sold as packages, but most viewers, it was noted, can simply sit on the sand to watch events.
And speaking of events, that was another change. Inside The Games noted that the 19 sports to be contested are all different disciplines from those contested on the Olympic program. However, in looking at the program, it can be seen that some Olympic disciplines, at least, will be included, with variations to create beach sports. Surfing, BMX, sport climbing, beach volleyball (4-on-4 format rather than a 2-on-2 format), basketball (3-on-3), karate, triathlon and water polo are among the disciplines to be contested. Additional events include the sand-based versions of handball, soccer, tennis and wrestling.
Skateboard big air events are also proposed, along with jiu jitsu. Beach Ultimate, marathon swimming, ocean canoeing, stand-up paddleboarding and windsurfing are also on the program.
Notable omissions since the last iteration of the Games include eSports, which had been originally proposed, along with beach rowing.
The website for the event gives few clues, stating only that venues will be located near Mission Beach.
In order to help keep events, solvent, Olympic sponsors such as Coca-Cola will have first shot at helping underwrite San Diego events, or even individual sports. The only prohibitions were those against tobacco ads, and those stating that no sponsor logos would appear on athletes’ uniforms.
San Diego is banking on the presence Willie Banks to pull these Games together. Banks, a former member of the USA Track & Field Board of Directors, has plenty of experience organizing international sports events. He was deputy events director of the month-long FIFA World Cup in the United States in 1994. He directed athlete services at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was a consultant to the Olympic bid cities of Stockholm and Osaka. He also helped with Chicago’s bid for the 2012 Games, although those Games ultimately were awarded to London.
In his full-time job as president of the WBG organizers group — its name isn’t formally set yet — he’ll guide a team that hopes to recruit 5,000 volunteers, including some who can be dispatched anywhere on 24 hours’ notice. He vows no taxpayer money will be used, saying: “We will be using our funds for all functions.” But city, county and state offices will be drawn in to coordinate traffic, etc.
Banks, 60 and a Carlsbad resident, said his group has entered a “three-month bubble” for gathering sponsors by the end of the year.