It might not be the dictionary definition of irony but it’s pretty darn close. The Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), which is supposed to be dissolved this year, held a signing ceremony in April to celebrate that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, will host the 2023 World Combat Games (WCG), an international multi-sport festival.
The news of the signing, which appeared on GAISF’s website, was blasted out via e-mail as well.
The World Combat Games, an international multi-sport festival featuring combat sports and martial arts, has been embattled for years. It has been scheduled, cancelled, rescheduled, put on hold – and now, GAISF is saying it is on for 2023. (According to Inside The Games, plans for a 2019 event in Taiwan were halted as the format was adjusted; then a revamped Games was awarded to Kazakhstan's capital, Nur-Sultan, in May 2019; however, the event in Nur-Sultan was not held).
The disciplines of the WCG include aikido, boxing, fencing, judo, ju-jitsu, karate, kendo, kickboxing, Muay Thai, sambo, savate, sumo, taekwondo, wrestling and wushu. Of these, some are currently Olympic disciplines, including boxing, fencing, judo, taekwondo and wrestling.
The newest word on the event’s hosting was received with head shakes of puzzlement, particularly in light of the fact that GAISF itself has noted that its dissolution is on the agenda for the May 17 General Assembly of the Alliance of Independent Recognized Members of Sport (AIMS).
So who is going to govern this fight club? Nobody seems to know. And yes, if you’re trying to put together the pieces (good luck with that), it means that an event to be staged in 2023 is supposed to be governed by the group won’t be around after 2022. Just in case you needed that spelled out.
AIMS, notes Inside The Games, is an organization that “covers 20 federations, including sports such as darts, practical shooting, sepak takraw and soft tennis.”
Inside The Games also noted that the Association of IOC-Recognized International Sports Federations and AIMS could be strengthened when the GAISF is disbanded:
“[AIMS’] votes could be crucial in any effort to thwart an initiative portrayed in some circles as yet another attempted IOC power grab. Dissolution would require a two-thirds majority of GAISF’s 97 full members, meaning it would take 33 votes to block it in the event of a 100 per cent turnout.”
And even with virtual turnout, it’s unknown what the online attendance will be or how members will vote on the issue. Or what will happen if that motion to dissolve is not accepted.
GAISF is (or perhaps was) an organization of more than 100 Olympic and non-Olympic sports governing bodies. The news that it would be shutting down took many by surprise. After all, the organization’s website is still carrying news of the election of its new president, Ivo Ferriani, dated November 12. (In that news article, Ferriani is quoted as saying, “I am very much looking forward to bringing my sporting experience to serve all GAISF’s Members, Associate Members and Observers, and to support them over the next two years.”)
The announcement of the dissolution of the organization came on November 19, according to Inside The Games, which noted all GAISF members received a letter notifying them that a motion to dissolve GAISF would be on the agenda at its General Assembly in May.
"One topic on the agenda that I would already like to bring to your attention is the dissolution of GAISF as already discussed before my arrival as President of GAISF," Ferriani wrote in the letter.
The question of why was not addressed by Ferriani in the letter and in fact, has not been addressed by GAISF at all; attempts to get GAISF to comment have been met with silence.
While larger sports federations, particularly those already recognized by the IOC, are likely to be unaffected, the same cannot be said for smaller sports. In total, GAISF has more than 100 members. Many are going to be left without representation from a larger governing body. Then there are others who have been granted GAISF Observer status, since they are just making their way onto the international scene.
In fact, Inside The Games adds, “a five-member task force has been created to begin the process, which may alarm the smaller sports and organizations that form the bedrock of the GAISF.”
The International Lifesaving Federation is one of the organizations that clapped back at GAISF, calling its actions "morally reprehensible" and accusing the organization of poor governance, according to Inside The Games. ILF is calling upon other members to voice their opposition as well.
"I ask for your support in voicing your fierce opposition to this initiative, rooted in the ultimate consolidation of power, and as the timeless proverb states 'absolute power corrupts absolutely,'" wrote ILS secretary general Harald Vervaecke. "Unfortunately, good governance seems to be an empty phrase that is only used when beneficial to reach a goal with an ulterior motive."
To the sports industry as a whole, there was no clue the announcement was coming – and in fact, it appears that GAISF is in complete denial of its own decision.
GAISF also organizes two other multi-sport events. The World Mind Games includes the five mind sports members of IMSA (Bridge, Chess, Draughts, Go and Chinese Chess). The World Urban Games include Parkour, BMX Freestyle, Roller Freestyle, Breaking, 3x3 Basketball and Flying Disc. Two showcase sports, Laser Run and Indoor Rowing, were added to the 2019 Games.
Problems have plagued GAISF in its struggles to put on multi-sport events. The 2019 World Urban Games were originally awarded to Los Angeles in late 2018 but by March 2019, they had been moved to Budapest. The World Mind Games have not taken place in several years.
SDM will follow this issue.