The host city
At the closing ceremony of World Games 1993 in The Hague, the World Games flag was handed to the Mayor of Port Elizabeth in South Africa; however by August 1994, the City Council of Port Elizabeth decided to withdraw from the organization of the World Games following the political change in South Africa.
In January 1995 the City of Lahti in Finland signed the agreement to organize the World Games 1997. The city took up the demanding task of organizing the World Games event with only two years’ preparation time. The participants of World Games 1997 recall the event as the very compact games with sports venues closely clustered in the city centre. The City of Lahti had reasonable experience in organizing major sport events, but their experience was in winter sport events like skiing; organising a multi-sport event in summer sports was a new challenge. The city established Lahti Happenings, a board to take care of finance and marketing, as well as an Organizing Committee, and appointed two excellent qualified staff members to manage the logistics and the sports venues. The majority of the persons involved in the organization were volunteers who had experience with the Lahti Ski Games, an annual FIS-sanctioned Nordic ski event staged in Lahti.