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Forget Fight Club: World Combat Games’ Biggest Battle is Infighting

27 Jan, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

For the World Combat Games, the biggest fight of all may involve just making the event a reality.  The Games, an international multi-sport festival featuring combat sports and martial arts, have degenerated into a political football of sorts. And while current plans are for them to be resurrected in 2018, whether this will come together is anyone’s guess.

By way of providing background: The Games are the concept of SportAccord, an umbrella organization for international sports federations (both Olympic and non-Olympic) as well as organizers of multi-sports games and sport-related international associations.

The first World Combat Games was presented in 2010 in Beijing, with just over 1,000 athletes competing in boxing, judo, ju-jitsu, karate, kendo, kickboxing, Muay Thai, sambo, sumo, taekwondo, wrestling and wushu and an aikido demonstration. A second World Combat Games followed in 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia, with the addition of fencing and savate. The United States sent athletes to participate in both 2010 and 2013.

According to Inside The Games, a third edition of the Games had been scheduled for Lima in 2017, but the Peruvian capital withdrew from all aspects of the event following controversial remarks on the part of judo world governing body President Marius Vizer. Vizer famously criticized the International Olympic Committee (IOC), its President Thomas Bach and his Agenda 2020 reform process at last year's SportAccord General Assembly in Sochi.

Vizer alleged that the IOC "lacked transparency,” that its Agenda 2020 reform process had brought "hardly any benefit" to sports and that it had unfairly blocked SportAccord in its drive to organize new commissions and events.

Lima wasn’t the only one offended. Boxing, taekwondo and wrestling also all withdrew from the Games following Vizer's speech. Relations between Vizer and the other governing bodies deteriorated. Vizer resigned from his SportAccord post and for a time, the Games seemed doomed never to return.

Now, however, Vizer says judo wants in on the World Combat Games.

Of course, that’s if those Games are actually held. The idea of bringing back the event was first voiced at November's International Federations (IF) Forum in Lausanne; in a brainstorming session, representatives from all 16 combat sport federations discussed the viability of the event.

The meeting was chaired by International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) secretary general Stephen Fox, who claimed afterwards talks had been "positive" and that Kazakhstan had already shown interest in hosting the event in 2018. Most other Federations, however, still have not confirmed their interest or their intent to participate. In addition, the president of the World Karate Federation, Antonio Espinós, described the Games as a “nightmare” which serves no real purpose for the international federations involved.

The only hope for the World Combat Games to be revived at this point is going to come if the IOC supports them – and the IOC previously voiced serious concerns about Vizer's plans to promote "rival" multi-sport events.

And let’s face it, Vizer’s outspoken criticism of Agenda 2020 has not helped the matter.

Right now, the future of the World Combat Games looks very uncertain. The website includes only information from the 2013 event and the most updated item in its News page is still touting the 2017 World Combat Games in Lima.

Meanwhile, SportAccord is expected to become a downsized group; a meeting regarding its future is set to take place in April. It may redefine its mission as simply to organize the annual SportAccord Convention.

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