It is 20 years since The World Games arrived for the first time in Asia, when the Japanese port city of city Akita was the host for The World Games 2001. The 6th edition of the Games took place from 16 to 26 August 2001 in north-western Japan. 27 sports (22 in the official programme plus five invitational sports) thrilled the city of about 310,000 inhabitants during the ten days of competition.
A total of 127,000 spectators attended the events. Around 2000 athletes competed in the 157 medal events in the official programme, their goal being the gold medals of The World Games. A total of 13 titles were awarded in the 5 invitational sports. The most successful nation within the official programme was Russia with 24 gold medals, 15 silver and 5 bronze, followed in the medal tally by the USA with 14/8/8 and Germany with 10/10/12 medals. The host country was ranked seventh with 9/6/10 medals.
Seven Debuts on the Programme
The individual disciplines in Rhythmic Sports Gymnastics were part of the official competition programme of The World Games for the first time. Billiards, Flying Disc and Orienteering also made their debut. Within the invitational sports programme, Sumo and Beach Handball premièred, as well as Tug of War Indoor as an all-female discipline. Sumo and Tug of War Indoor became part of the official programme from 2005 (Duisburg, Germany) onwards. Beach Handball made this leap into the programme in 2013 in Cali, Colombia. The discipline Roller Hockey had its last appearance in Akita; the international federation replaced it by Inline Hockey in 2005.
998 media representatives reported on the competitions at the 21 venues. The Japanese Broadcasting Corporation NHK produced the television pictures from the Games. For the first time, all sports during The World Games were covered by the TV production.
An unusual event challenged the organisers: a typhoon that raged over the city for two days during the Games forced many competitions to be either started later or moved to other venues. The good news: no event had to be cancelled.
For the first time, some National Olympic Committees organised hotel accommodation for their athletes, beyond the period of hosting by the IWGA. This can be seen as a sign of the further development of the Games.
The World Games Plaza
The main innovation of The World Games 2001 was the organisation of The World Games Plaza in the centre of the city. The daily cultural festival made it possible for athletes, fans and residents of Akita to meet and to celebrate the event. The première proved so successful that it has since become an integral part of The World Games experience.
One of the legacies of the Games relates to the Japanese World Games Association. It was established in 1985 as the Japan World Games Commission by domestic World Games-related sports associations. After being reorganised into the Japan World Games Association (JWGA) in December 1991, the association received non-profit organisation (NPO) corporate status in June 2001 and continues to promote the World Games sports in Japan. Fumio Morooka, member of JWGA, served on the IWGA Board of Directors from 2014 to 2018.
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 7-17 July 2022. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in The World Games.