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In a Surprise Honor, L.A. Will Host the World Urban Games Next Year

14 Nov, 2018

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
International Event Expected to Highlight Emerging Sports, Including eSports – but Could Present Complications to Previously Scheduled Events

The next Olympics there may be a decade out but Los Angeles is getting a warm-up. The city has been named as host of the first two editions of the World Urban Games, to be presented in 2019 and 2021.

The Games, which according to an article in Inside The Games, will include about 700 athletes competing in so-called ‘urban’ sports – among them non-traditional and emerging Olympic disciplines such as skateboarding, three-on-three basketball and BMX freestyle – will take place a week before the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games, which are scheduled to be held from October 10 to 15 in San Diego.

L.A. edged out Budapest (an also-ran for the 2024 and 2028 Olympics) for hosting honors – although organizers note the City of Angels’ ability to host the 2021 Games is dependent upon its success in 2019.

The El Segundo section of L.A. is expected to host all competition. El Segundo officials were supportive of the campaign to host and municipal leaders said they agreed to turn over the city’s golf course, soccer fields and close streets for the five-day event near the L.A. Times. Plans include building an urban park in El Segundo before September.

“This came together rather quickly, and we were impressed by the magnitude of the idea,” said Mayor Drew Boyles.

Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong agreed to underwrite the event to woo the World Urban Games to the Los Angeles area. The biomedical entrepreneur, who also is a part owner of the Lakers, declined to disclose the size of his investment, but he said he plans to bring on additional sponsors to help cover the costs. The article in the L.A. Times, in which this news was carried, also listed sports including roller freestyle skating, bouldering, freestyle flying disc, break dancing and parkour.

Let the googling of some of these sports begin.

The competitions will be part of a large outdoor festival with food, music, art and digital entertainment, including eSports (more on that in a minute), the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) announced Monday at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“L.A. is a young, vibrant and creative city, which has helped to shape youth culture and the urban sports, which are the very heart of the World Urban Games,” GAISF’s Senior Vice President Raffaele Chiulli said in a statement.

The World Urban Games inclusion of a venue for e-sports competitions is in keeping with the fact that gaming is an area of interest to Soon-Shiong, who recently became the minority owner of Daybreak Game Co., a developer and publisher of multi-player online games. Soon-Shiong separately has been building an El Segundo campus for the L.A. Times, which eventually will include an events center for community forums and e-sports competitions.

Working in the bid’s favor is the fact that El Segundo is near LAX and public transit, simplifying athlete transportation.

The city has not committed any additional financing for the games beyond making its facilities available, Boyles said. More than 20,000 people are expected to attend over the course of the five-day event.

The competitions may provide challenges and complications for any events already scheduled in Los Angeles at the time. For example, should the L.A. Dodgers be making another run into the postseason, lodging could become an issue. And the area, already rich in venues, has sports being hosted in places like UCLA throughout the fall.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to this, but there is plenty of precedent for cities having to back out of hosting duties, based on pushback from residents. Already, some are expressing doubts, as evidenced by the comments in a few news stories.

“Besides the Sepulveda Dam area (which is subject to flooding), just where in the SFV do you suggest be considered for a major sports stadium?,” wrote one L.A. Times reader, “i.e. near a freeway with a large land area available.” Another wrote, “Urban canoeing down the LA River! No hazmat suit to protect yourself … only your paddle for self-defense against the locals, first one to Long Beach wins gold. Also, the Skid Row Sprint is a must. No LAPD assistance, MMA gloves but no weapons, race starts at dusk. Let's get it on!”

Seems not everyone is as enthused as the organizers – and these Games are less than a year away.

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