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World Beach Games in San Diego Shrinking in Scope, Budget

15 Nov, 2017

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Downsizing of U.S. Games Follows Months of Speculation Regarding Viability of International Multi-Sport Event

When we last checked in with the ANOC World Beach Games, planned for San Diego, they’d been moved from 2017 to 2019. And while organizers claimed the move had been made in order to allow national Olympic committees and international federations “optimum time to prepare their athletes” for the event, the groundswell of opinion was that the Games – virtually unknown in the U.S. – were lacking for money.

Recent news appears to bear this out. An announcement, made in late October, stated the Games will still be held in San Diego in 2019, but will “take place on a smaller scale than first planned.”

Previously, the Games were to feature representatives from all 206 National Olympic Committees participating in nearly 25 sports including 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 paddle boarding, climbing, water polo, windsurfing, eSports and 3-on-3 basketball – although it was noted that more sports might be added.

Now, organizers have scaled those plans back significantly. According to an article in Inside The Games, San Diego Exploratory Foundation leader Vincent Mudd told the Times of San Diego that his group is aiming for around 40 countries to participate in 17 sports, with a total of just over 1,300 athletes expected. However, Inside The Games noted, all 206 NOCs will be invited to send athletes.

The Games will also be shorter – six days instead of the original 10 that had been planned.

A subsequent Inside The Games article stated these sports would include the following:

Sand or Beachside Activities:
3x3 Basketball
BMX Freestyle
Beach Handball
Park Terrain Skateboarding
Karate Beach Kata
Beach Soccer
Beach Tennis
Beach Wrestling
4x4 Beach Volleyball
Bouldering

Water Sports:
Stand-up Paddleboarding
Shortboard
Open Water Swimming
Aquathlon (run-swim-run)
Wakeboarding
Water Ski Jumping
Kiteboarding

Other sports may be added as the Games get closer.

When the list was announced, there were some who questioned the inclusions of specific sports, such as martial arts and bouldering. Multi-sport games analyst Michael Pavitt raised the questions that seemed to beg to be asked:

Surfing, open water swimming and the beach versions of soccer, tennis and volleyball absolutely fit into (the idea of beach sports), along with wakeboarding, waterskiing and kiteboarding. Beach handball, which has had seven World Championships to date, would be another to get a tick.

BMX freestyle, 3x3 basketball, skateboarding, bouldering, duathlon, karate beach kata and wrestling fall into another, one word, category.

Why?

With the greatest of respect, the first three of those have been recently dubbed as “urban” events when they were added to the Tokyo 2020 sport program. They do not exactly spring to mind when you head down to the beach. Unless you are climbing a cliff near a beach, I am not entirely sure why the sport is there.

As for wrestling and karate, I just cannot understand their perceived link to the beach to entitle them a place on the program.

Pundits’ ideas notwithstanding, preparations go on for the Games. Presently, plans call for three stadiums to be used: one to host beach soccer and beach volleyball, with the second hosting the medal rounds of all other sports. The final stadium will host the urban competitions. Water sports are expected to be open to the public, with live feeds in the stadiums.

While previously planned for inclusion, eSports were eliminated from the Games because of high infrastructure costs. Mudd, who according to the Times article, previously operated the Mudd Club Gaming Center in Sabre Springs, is “quite sad about” that cut.

Mudd has pledged to spend “not one dollar more” than the Games generates in revenue.

The event is now expected to take place solely on Mission Beach (earlier projections had been to involve other areas of the city, such as the downtown piers) and will have a budget of just $40 million (down from an original figure of $130 million).

There was no immediate word as to what the economic impact of the event would be.

It has been a long road to put on the World Beach Games, and like many international events, it has had its share of political infighting and falling-out. Presently, however, organizers seem to be trying to mend the fences and move forward.

The organizing committee, according to reports, is now seeking commercial partners and sponsors for the event. Its website notes that it will have music and performances that tap into the energy and enthusiasm of the Millennial and Gen Z demographics. It is also promising an emphasis on technology as well as on sustainability.

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