Santa Clara, USA 1981

Santa-Clara-UniversityThe first edition of The World Games took place from 24 July to 2 August 1981 in Santa Clara, California, USA. The venues were rented from the city. 16 sports were on the program, including women's water polo. The new idea of a multisport event for sports that were not part of the Olympic program was realized in Santa Clara, a city in the heart of the Silicon Valley. The World Games 1981 were a test run for the concept established at the foundation meeting of the IWGA on 21 May 1980.
Thomas Keller, President of the GAISF, opened the games at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara and read a greeting from the then US President Ronald Reagan. During the opening ceremony, Kim Un-yong, President of The World Games executive committee, representing the 12 founding member federations, said: "Our theme is sport for the sake of sport and a total disregard for where an athlete comes from."

This sentence expressed the then still special approach to the idea of a multi-sport event: The World Games put sport in the foreground and not the participating national teams. At the opening ceremony, the athletes marched in sorted by sport and not by nation. All athletes were hosted in the Santa Clara University. However, The World Games did not want to be acknowledged as a competitor to the Olympic movement. Participation in The World Games should not reduce the chances of integration into the Olympic program. This idea worked, as can be seen from the examples of Taekwondo, Water Polo Women, Trampoline and Badminton.

1600 athletes from 58 nations competed in 104 medal events for the first gold at The World Games. About 80,000 spectators came to the venues on ten competition days. Among the nations was also China (four times gold in badminton). The USA took first place in the medals table with a total of 99 medals, 39 of which were gold medals. South Korea took second place with a total of nine gold medals. A total of 13 sports venues, including a parking lot for speed skating, were used. The sports facilities were rented by the Executive Committee of the University and the City of Santa Clara.

The Buck Shaw stadium (now Stevens Stadium) has been the home base of the Santa Clara University Broncos soccer team. It was used for the opening ceremony. The tug-of-war competitions were also held here immediately after the opening ceremony. The first winners of a gold medal at The World Games were the team from Great Britain in the 640 kilo class. The teammates were: Joe Critchlow, John Critchlow, Ron Critchlow, Brian Jones, Roland Peirson, Eric Suton, Luan Torr, Mark Upton.


The City

Santa-Clara-MissionLike all other cities in the “New World”, Santa Clara is not very old compared to many cities in the “Old World”. It was around 1777, some 200 years before The World Games 1, that Spanish missionaries figured that the valley between the Pacific coast and San Francisco Bay would be a good place to establish the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, which developed into the City of Santa Clara.


Intel-Santa-ClaraTwo centuries later the same valley became Silicon Valley, centered on Santa Clara. In 1981, Silicon Valley did not yet have its current (2014) fame and prominence, as the computer industry was still in its infancy. The World Games competitors at the time could not know that their current iPad or iPhone was to come from a place a few kilometers away from Santa Clara - that place is Cupertino, the Head­quarters of Apple.  Apple is not the only industry that, like The World Games, has its cradle in the Santa Clara valley;  Intel, Adobe, Cisco, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Facebook, eBay, Google, Yahoo and Xerox (just to name few), all have their headquarters in the valley.


The main sport in Silicon Valley was and still is American Football. The Buck Shaw Stadium on the premises of the Santa Clara University is the home base of the San Jose Earthquakes and the San Francisco 49ers will play in the new Levi’s Stadium which is presently (2014) being constructed in Santa Clara, ready to host the Super Bowl in 2015.

The Visuals

1981-Santa-Clara-BrochureThe various graphics of The World Games 1981 demonstrate that The World Games were still in their development stage, as on some pu­blications pictograms are shown of sports that did not participate in The World Games, such as windsurfing and boxing.

1981-Santa-Clara-PosterThe medal for The World Games 1981 was designed by a company in Switzerland. The graphic design of the medal is also used for other publications of The World Games 1981. The organizers understood that they needed graphics for use on brochures and communications to the international sports federations. They developed an event logo on the basis of the medal design (basically a flattened globe grid with the Word Games logo in the centre).

The poster designed for The World Games 1981, used the event logo in the centre of the poster and the title of the event at the top of the poster. The poster shows another element of graphic design for The World Games: left and right of the event logo are the first pictograms of the participating sports, which were also depicted on the medal.

The World Games logo 1980


With the preparation for the event in Santa Clara, The World Games godfathers introduced a letterhead and a
logo for The World Games. The first letter of the name “World”, the W (double-u), became the characteristic
element of The World Games logo.
To visualize The world, a globe was placed in the centre of the double-u.

First pictogrammes of The World Games sports


Programme Sports






Baseball (1)




Ten Pin






Trampoline (4)

Tumbling (4)








Roller Sports







Taekwondo (1)

Tug of War


Water Ski


Demonstration Sports



Water Polo

Water Polo

1) Last participation on TWG programme,became Olympic IF; discipline to Olympic programme
2) Part of Olympic IF; After particpation in TWG included in Olympic programme
4) Joined as FIT; Merged later with Gymnastics

Event numbers

Officials Sports
Invitational Sport