Beach handball is one of the sports contested at the World Beach Games. Photo © Peter Muzslay | Dreamstime.com
The World Beach Games aren’t due to happen until next year but already, a past member of its governing body is calling for the event to be dropped from the calendar, characterizing it as a waste of time and money. The sad fact is, of course, he has a point.
According to Inside The Games, Richard Peterkin, a former member of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) which puts on the Games (he is also a former member of the IOC) has joined two other members, Neven Ilic (Pan-Am Sports President and IOC member) and Alfred Emmanuel (head of the Saint Lucia Olympic Committee) in calling for the World Beach Games to be put to rest.
Ilic, for his part, has called into question ANOC’s role in, and reason for, staging the event. Emmanuel went one step further, criticizing high-ranking ANOC officials for also holding positions of power within the IOC, saying there were cases of “management and shop stewards sleeping in the same bed.”
(Side note: Ouch).
Peterkin has posted a series of tweets on the matter, each more inflammatory than the last. In one, he notes, “We all know what caused this problem. We allowed ourselves to be hijacked by the personal ambitions and empire building of individuals and now need to get back to the collective responsibility and consensus of the NOCs of all continental associations.”
In other words, ANOC shouldn’t be putting on events; it should be working for the good of its members.
The World Beach Games have a history, and it’s not good. After multiple missteps leading up to the 2019 World Beach Games (including but not limited to date changes, downsizing and a last-minute change of venues from San Diego to Qatar) followed by a lower-than predicted turnout, it was back in June that ANOC announced Bali, Indonesia as its 2023 host city. Of course, that was the only city to bid.
According to Inside the Games, “Indonesia was confirmed as the only candidate for the 2023 World Beach Games at the ANOC General Assembly last year but could not be awarded the event as its National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO) had recently been declared non-compliant by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). With the Indonesian NADO taken off WADA's non-compliance list in February, Indonesia was free to be awarded major events again, and an ANOC delegation visited the country to assess potential host locations.”
But the World Beach Games weren’t the only international multi-sport event to have problems. Not even close, in fact. Birmingham, Alabama was left with a more than $15.5 million deficit after staging the World Games, and most of that was owed to local vendors. Los Angeles also had difficulty when it agreed to host the World Urban Games, originally scheduled for September 2019. However, in March 2019, with less than six months to go, the event was pulled from L.A. and moved to Hungary. (That event was produced by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) which will be dissolving in 2022). It was reported the 2023 version of the Games would be in Budapest but the website does not mention anything about it.
Another GAISF event, the World Combat Games, is also fighting for survival. First held in 2010 in Beijing, the 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. But then the infighting started and Lima withdrew as host. It took another five years until GAISF signed a contract for the World Combat Games to take place in 2023 – the year after GAISF itself was set to be dissolved. It will be hosted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh.
GAISF, by the way, has finally announced firm plans for dissolution and has noted that the Association of IOC Recognized International Sports Federations (ARISF) and Alliance of Independent recognized Members of Sport (AIMS) will be the beneficiaries of multi-sport games involving non-Olympic International Federations – meaning the World Combat Games, the World Urban Games and World Mind Games.
But that still leaves the fate of the World Beach Games – and the work of ANOC – to be determined. It may be that following the 2023 Games, if they take place, ANOC goes back to the business of working with its members and leaves event planning for others. Of course, it may keep trying to produce the event, despite a lack of interest in hosting and a shortage of funds to do so, perpetuating the problem.
At a time when even the Olympics are struggling to attract host cities (and many cities are conducting referendums to see if residents even want them; often, they do not), the time seems to be right for ANOC to reconsider its hosting. SDM will continue to follow this issue.