The experience of trying to put on the World Combat Games could best be characterized as a fight. The Games, an international multi-sport festival featuring combat sports and martial arts, have lost direction, thanks (or no thanks) to political infighting.
First held in 2010 in Beijing, the SportAccord-organized Games consisted of six Olympic and 10 non-Olympic sports, with a second edition held in St Petersburg and a third awarded to Lima for 2017.
Following an incident in 2015 in which Marius Vizer, the head of what was then known as SportAccord, provided no-holds-barred criticism of the IOC and its President Thomas Bach, Lima withdrew its hosting rights and several NGBs, including boxing, taekwondo, wrestling, taekwondo and fencing announced they were withdrawing from the event. Following the departure of Vizer, the event slowly found its way back to center.
At last check, the event had been scheduled for 2019 in Chinese Taipei, but the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF, the new iteration of SportAccord), and which oversees those Games, has backtracked, announcing they will not be produced until at least 2021.
This has left the governing bodies of 15 sports expected to be on the program (aikido, boxing, fencing, judo, ju-jitsu, karate, kendo, kickboxing, muay thai, sambo, savate, sumo, taekwondo, wrestling and wushu) – you guessed it – fighting mad.
"We were not ready to hold them in 2019 because it’s a qualifying year for the Olympic Games in Tokyo and the Federations were feeling a little bit uncomfortable at modifying their calendars or adding to the qualification calendar that particular event," GAISF President Patrick Baumann told Inside The Games. "So the year after the Olympics was felt to be a more appropriate time to have the Combat Games.”
Baumann says there’s no denying that the combat sports community wants a specific multi-sport competition; however, the commercial viability of the Games is not as strong presently as it could be.
In addition, he noted, original plans were very ambitious, leading to an event that “was just too big. It needs to be re-sized to make it more realistic in terms of the investment of hosting cities.”
A new working group has been set up to craft a Combat Games format that will be manageable and affordable.
“We hope that will be in place sometime this year so that we can move on with the appropriate documentation and then there will be a consultation for hosts and hopefully an awarding,” Baumann said, “but the event will not happen before 2021."
In the meantime, Inside The Games notes, the World Urban Games were approved by GAISF, with a presentation date in 2019. The World Urban Games will be a downtown, five-day celebration featuring a new-generation of sports and a showcase for the skill, style and power of the most successful and inspirational urban athletes, riders and breakdancers on the planet, it is claimed.
A review of the disciplines eligible for the competition program is underway and, under the supervision of the relevant International Federations, athletes will compete in breakthrough events.
So far, potential eligible disciplines are 3x3 basketball, BMX freestyle cycling, break dancing, boulder sports climbing, freestyle flying disc, parkour, roller freestyle, in-line freestyle and skateboard.
The final program will be proposed for approval in due course and disciplines will be selected from among all eligible disciplines in consultation with the host city and all stakeholders. GAISF has announced a search process to locate a host city.