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The World Games

The World Games, an international multi-sport event comprising sports and sporting disciplines that are not contested in the Olympic Games.
The World Games
Leadership team

José Perurena López (IWGA President)

Tom Dielen (IWGA Vice President)

Lukas Hinder (IWGA Treasurer)

Anna Arzhanova (IWGA ExCo Member)

Volker Bernardi (IWGA ExCo Member)

Jan Fransoo (IWGA ExCo Member)

John Liljelund (IWGA ExCo Member)

Guillaume Felli (Deputy CEO)

Chantal Boehi (General Director)

Sebastian Garvens (Sports Director)

Headquarters
Avenue de la Gare, Lausanne, Vaud 1003, CH
Region served
worldwide
Year stablished
1979
Address
Avenue de la Gare, Lausanne, Vaud 1003, CH
Social Media
Summary

The World Games represent an international multi-sport event featuring sports and disciplines not contested in the Olympic Games. Governed by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee, this global extravaganza takes place every four years, strategically scheduled one year after the Summer Olympic Games, spanning 11 days. The official program typically encompasses 30 to 35 sports, with participation from around 100 nations totaling approximately 4,000 athletes.

Distinguished by its unique characteristics, The World Games stand apart from other multi-sport events, notably the Olympic Games, as host cities are not obligated to construct new venues. Competitors earn their spots through selection by the respective international federations governing their sports, deviating from the National Olympic Committees or national governing bodies' usual selection processes. Qualification often hinges on achieving top rankings at world championships or designated qualification tournaments, ensuring that the most elite athletes in each discipline grace the Games.

Officially known as "The World Games," with emphasis on the capital T, the inaugural edition took place in Santa Clara, California, in 1981. The most recent event, the eleventh edition, unfolded in Birmingham, Alabama, United States, from July 7 to 17, 2022. Originally slated for 2021, the current edition experienced a one-year delay due to the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


History

The inception of The World Games originated from the vision of the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), recognizing the limited opportunities for non-Olympic sports to showcase themselves on a global platform. In early 1979, a steering group was formed to conceptualize and organize an international multi-sport event exclusively for these sports. The inaugural event found its venue in Santa Clara, USA, with the first edition held in 1981. The World Games Executive Council, established in 1979, evolved into the International World Games Association (IWGA) in 1985.

Following the inaugural Games, the West Nally Group assumed ownership of the event, relocating the second edition to London. The commercial rights were later repurchased by the IWGA, shifting the responsibility of organizing and financing to host cities. The 1997 Games faced a change of host city from Port Elizabeth to Lahti, Finland, marking the debut of airsports, dancesport, aerobics, and jujitsu. A memorandum of understanding between the IWGA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2000 recognized the significance of The World Games, fostering collaboration on shared values.

The 21st century saw The World Games expanding beyond North America and Europe, with the 2001 edition held in Akita, Japan. The 2005 Games in Duisburg, Germany, implemented new standards, including the grouping of athletes by nation during the opening ceremony. The 2013 Games in Cali, Colombia, witnessed unprecedented spectator numbers and the first-ever cancellation of a competition. Wroc?aw, Poland, hosted the 2017 Games, which were the first to be broadcast on the Olympic Channel. The 11th edition was awarded to Birmingham, Alabama, USA, in 2015, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was postponed to 2022, marking the first inclusion of para sports with wheelchair rugby and plans for further collaboration with the International Paralympic Committee. The forthcoming 2025 Games are scheduled to take place in Chengdu, China.


Goals and Purpose

The World Games serve as a unique and inclusive international multi-sport event with the primary goal of providing a platform for sports and sporting disciplines not featured in the Olympic Games. Established by the International World Games Association (IWGA) under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), The World Games aim to offer recognition and visibility to non-Olympic sports federations, providing athletes in these disciplines an opportunity to showcase their talents on a global stage.

One of the fundamental goals of The World Games is to create a space where sports that might not find a place in the Olympic program can flourish and gain widespread attention. By organizing this event every four years, one year after the Summer Olympic Games, the IWGA seeks to foster diversity and inclusivity in the realm of international sports, promoting disciplines that may have limited opportunities for global exposure.

Additionally, The World Games play a crucial role in facilitating cooperation and understanding among different nations through the shared passion for sports. Unlike the Olympic Games, host cities for The World Games are not obligated to construct new venues, emphasizing a sustainable and cost-effective approach. The event's purpose extends beyond competition, aiming to encourage cultural exchange, camaraderie, and the celebration of sports that reflect the rich tapestry of global athletic endeavors. Overall, The World Games strive to be a catalyst for the growth and recognition of diverse sports, contributing to the broader narrative of international sporting excellence.


Impact

The opening ceremony of The World Games serves as a grand inauguration, evolving over the years to symbolise unity and cultural diversity. Notably, from Duisburg 2005 onward, athletes parade into the ceremony grouped by nation, fostering a sense of national pride and camaraderie. The ceremony encapsulates not only the spirit of competition but also incorporates musical and artistic elements, engaging over 400 artists in the 2017 Wroclaw edition. This cultural exchange enriches the event, showcasing the global tapestry of traditions and talents.

The introduction of the Athlete Party since 1993, and its continuation in subsequent editions, provides athletes with an opportunity to come together, fostering a sense of community and shared celebration amid the competitions. This unique aspect of The World Games ensures that all participants can partake in at least one ceremonial event, whether it be the opening ceremony, athlete party, or closing ceremony, creating lasting memories and connections beyond the competitive arena.

The closing ceremony brings The World Games to a festive conclusion, featuring speeches, the passing of the flag to the next host city, and performances reflecting the local culture. The event not only signifies the end of intense athletic competitions but also marks the beginning of the countdown to the next edition. The collaborative nature of the closing ceremony, involving representatives from both the current and future host cities, exemplifies the global partnership and shared commitment to the success of The World Games.

The impact of The World Games extends beyond the event itself, leaving a lasting legacy in host cities and elevating the recognition of non-Olympic sports worldwide. The event's growth, both in terms of sports diversity and global participation, underscores its significance in the international sports calendar. The inclusion of parasports in Birmingham 2022 further demonstrates a commitment to inclusivity, opening new avenues for athletes with diverse abilities. As the event continues to evolve and expand, The World Games maintain their role as a catalyst for global sports excellence and cross-cultural understanding.


References
The World Games
Leadership team

José Perurena López (IWGA President)

Tom Dielen (IWGA Vice President)

Lukas Hinder (IWGA Treasurer)

Anna Arzhanova (IWGA ExCo Member)

Volker Bernardi (IWGA ExCo Member)

Jan Fransoo (IWGA ExCo Member)

John Liljelund (IWGA ExCo Member)

Guillaume Felli (Deputy CEO)

Chantal Boehi (General Director)

Sebastian Garvens (Sports Director)

Headquarters
Avenue de la Gare, Lausanne, Vaud 1003, CH
Region served
worldwide
Year stablished
1979
Address
Avenue de la Gare, Lausanne, Vaud 1003, CH
Social Media