Multi-Sport Games Struggle for Survival: How Much Will the Market Bear?
19 Apr, 2017By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Take a handful of struggling multi-sport games, evaluate them and help get them moving in the right direction. That was the mission of the Global Association of International Sport Federations (formerly known as SportAccord), an umbrella organization of both Olympic and non-Olympic disciplines, as it evaluated the World Mind Sports Games, World Combat Games and World Urban Games.
The question, of course, is whether it’s possible – and perhaps whether it even should be.
Despite their differences, all events had one thing in common: their biggest challenge was survival. All had plans to host international events in 2016 and 2017 – and all failed to do so.
According to an article published in Inside The Games, GAISF is most optimistic about World Mind Sports Games’ ability not just to survive, but to thrive, describing it as “by far the most advanced with its concept.”
The World Mind Sports Games (WMSG), an invitational event, includes competitions in bridge, chess, draughts (America knows it as checkers), go (a Chinese board game) and xianqi (Chinese chess). It was first held in Beijing in 2011 and remained in the Chinese capital for the next three years. It is the brainchild of the International Mind Sports Association, or IMSA. Ultimately, it was set to be presented in 2016, but was not.
Presently, a working group within the organization, chaired by World Chess Federation (FIDE) chief executive Geoffrey Borg, hopes to stage the next edition of the WMSG in 2018 and hold the Games annually. According to organizers, potential host cities could be sought “shortly.”
The World Combat Games, an international multi-sport festival featuring combat sports and martial arts, is taking extra time, and says it will return in 2019. Houston, Texas, has applied to host the event, joining South Korean city Cheongju at the bidding table.
The disciplines of the World Combat Games 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.
Organizers hope to hold the WCG every two or four years, depending upon interest and funding.
The concept for the inaugural World Urban Games, meanwhile, was introduced in 2014, and included 17 sports: cycling, roller, dance, floorball, baseball/softball, three-on-three basketball, lacrosse, hockey, netball, fistball, pentathlon, parkour, orienteering, climbing, athletics, air sports and automobile.
The event was planned for 2016, but was put on hold following the resignation of SportAccord President Marius Vizer in 2015 after his criticism of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) prompted any number of international governing bodies to withdraw from SportAccord.
The Games had been expected showcase a “mixture of professional sport and urban culture with a unique blend of old and new disciplines.” The revival of this event is currently under study. Organizers are hoping to stage the next edition in 2019 and hold the event annually; they note the concept also provides for opportunity to complement the efforts done by the IOC in setting up urban clusters at the Olympic and Youth Olympic Games.
Another multi-sport event which has received some attention is the ANOC World Beach Games, which was originally scheduled for 2017, then pushed back to 2019. The official reason the multi-sport event featuring sand and water sports was delayed was “to allow national Olympic committees and international federations optimum time to prepare their athletes” for the event.” (However, if some industry sources are to be believed, funding was the true issue.)
Four events, all struggling for survival, have left pundits to ask the all-important question: how many multi-sport events can the market support? Advertising and sponsorship funds are tighter than ever, athletes in many small sports are unable to pay their own way, and with so many individuals able to use personal devices to stream sports events, is there any percentage in the television advertising that might possibly bring in revenue? So far, the Olympics and Pan-Am Games seem to be the only international multi-sport events succeeding cycle after cycle. And as the Olympics continue to showcase new sports, it may well be that many sports shown in these events will migrate over, leaving the events on the drawing board.